A vision in a vest

A retired Iowa environmentalist who grew up in the Catskills told the Sioux City Journal this week about a vision he received as a child when pneumonia sent him into a high, delirious fever. The vision, of a fox wearing an interestingly dressy garment, changed the course of Bruce Hopkins' life and gave his the name for his book:

After he slipped into delirium, the fox paid him a visit.

“He kept saying to me, ‘You are going to be fine.’”

Memories of that conversation serve as the focal point for Hopkins latest book of short stories, essays and poems, entitled, “When Foxes Wore Red Vests.”

As clearly as if he had just seen the animal just last week, Hopkins described the fox. He was 'somewhat of a dandy, wearing a gold-buttoned red vest, an ivory shirt and blue pants. He sat on the stump of an old hemlock tree.

“His conversation taught me to listen to the stories of the wind and to respect the talking earth. ...Throughout, I could hear the voice of the whippoorwill. I learned first-hand that day about the profound assurances of nature,” he wrote.

Although Hopkins moved out west, the Catskills -- and the fox -- have stayed with him:

Growing up the Catskills helped form his character and his passion for protecting the environment and encouraging the next generation to value it as well.