kittehs! do not be alarmed by the fox packing heat! Today i share another one of my Grandma Nellie’s stories and today we feature Ohio’s famed Peerless Lady Wing and Rifle Shot, teh lovely and foxy Ruby Fox.
Oh. Did you fink i meant a different Wing and Rifle Shot Lady who claimed to be without peers? Well, yes, I see how you could get confused. But don’t be. Accept no imitations. Back in the day, Ruby was The Dead-Eye Huntress Supreme …until she took a certain little sure shot upstart under her wing.
Ruby reigned over the Ohio River Valley, renown for her ability to mow down mices and quails faster than a John Deere tractor. Her ears could pick up the sound of a bird landing on a nest at the top of a tree in Cincinnati, then twitch the other direction and hear a rabbit sneeze outside a corn field in Ft Wayne. Her nose could not only sniff out a party of mice in burrows deep under ground, but could also detect who was teh birthday boy based on teh scent o’ cake crumb on his paws. Sharks was jealous of her pearly white razor sharp teeths. Chickens who saw her coming up and plucked themselves in order to save eva one teh fuss and bother of a fight.
One day she was in the middle of juggling chipmunks when heard a little girl tramping through the deep dark woods. She was tiny, not much bigger than Ruby, and certainly no bigger than the shotgun she dragged after her. looking hungrily at at a rabbit in a clearing, the little girl hoisted the gun to her shoulder, aimed and missed. The recoil sent the child tumbling back over a hollow log. The rabbit laughed as it dashed away and the girl lay quietly on the ground, staring stoically at the sky. After a bit, she started to cry. Ruby had been thinking of snacking on the little human but her tiny tears were too much to bear, so instead she sat on log beside her and struck up a conversation.
“What’s wrong, Small One? don’t you know the deep dark woods is no place for a child like you? maybe yer Momma is worried and yer Daddy looking for you and his gun right now. you best get yer rear end home afore eva one gets mad.”
the child sobbed harder, but then choked out the following sad story:
“Ain’t no one to get mad. My Momma is too busy trying to make dinner with a handful of moldy old corn and my Daddy is too busy being dead. I can’t bear another night of going to bed hungry. I come out here to find us some dinner.”
The girl sat up, wiped tears from her eyes and looked hard at Ruby. Ruby saw the barrel lower and heard the shotgun cock. Hunger, it seemed, had sharpened the child’s wits. So Ruby spoke fast.
“Well, it appears to me that you are just unpracticed. Here, let’s test your reflexes,”
and Ruby tossed the chipmunks up in the air. Bam! Bam! Bam! the little rodents died a quick but noble death in aid of a starving family. Annie was pleased but doubted that buckshot-filled rodents would make a very good dinner. She continued to survey Ruby’s luxurious red coat with dollar signs in her eyes. The gun cocked once more and so again Ruby thought fast.
“That wasn’t too bad, I suppose. It is possible that you possess the makings of a dead-eye, but really, there is only one way to know for sure. Think you could shoot something even smaller?”
Annie guessed she could and Ruby tossed pine cones, then walnuts and finally acorns in the air, one at a time. Each one exploded into nut powder before hitting the ground.
Ruby and Annie both laughed and cheered to see the acorn shells shatter in mid air. Then Annie’s stomach growled. She began to re-fill the shotgun with the last of her buckshot and leveled a pointed look at Ruby.
“Thank you kindly for the lesson, Miss Fox, but I do have to get home now. If you don’t mind sitting still for just one second…”
Ruby pretended not to notice the gun barrel pointed at her nose and quickly cocked her ear to the log.
“Do you hear that?” she cried. “No! Say it isn’t so? Why, that cheatin’ rascal!” she hopped off the log and ran to one end. “Quick! Keep yer eye peeled as I flush out the feathered scoundrel who plans on deserting his wife and her eggs!”
And, quick as a red firecracker, Ruby shot into the log. After a bit of yelping and squawking, a fat quail flew out the other end. Annie’s rifle took it down in mid-flight, then took it home to her very grateful family.
After that, Annie met Ruby in the forest everyday for a little target practice. Soon Annie was not only shooting enough game to feed her family but also selling the extra at the general store and winning marksmenship ribbons and loving cups at the County Fair. Before she left to become an International Star in the Wild West Show, Annie stopped by the forest to say goodbye to her former teacher.
“I can’t take you with me, I’m afraid, Annie apologized. “The men are already flabbergasted to see a girl shot better than them. I don’t reckon they would welcome the sight of a fox who hunts as well as you. I hope you understand.”
And she presented Ruby with a pistol and the pretty dress you see in the picture, as a token of her esteem.
But this was just fine with Ruby, for as much as she liked teh fancy duds, she knew in her heart that she was faster than any bullet. Plus, she didn’t have time to waste in a carnival side show. There were simply too many rabbits and quails left to hunt. Still, it did her heart good to get all dressed up and see her best student up on the screen at the new fangled Nickolodean.
Leaving the theatre, Miss Ruby Fox held her head high and said with pride, to anyone who would listen to a pistol packin’ fox:
“I taught her that.”
many thanks to the Garst Museum of Greenville Ohio for making me a life-long fan of my home-town girl. Also, to The Curious Crow, for another brilliant “Anthropormorphic Animal Portrait,” one of many on sale at her Etsy Shop, The Curious Crow.