Blue heron photo 
Jason Lindsey/
www.
perceptivevisions.com

Click here for the 
original  version.


The sign above, at an Aurora junkyard,
appeared on Earth Day, 2005.
"The Fox Lives" appears at the bottom
of the sign. 

Farewell to 'The Fox'

(Editor's note: The following appeared in the Chicago Tribune on October 16, 2001.)

Copyright (c) 2001, Chicago Tribune

In one of his first sorties, back in 1970, the mystery man dumped a gallon of industrial sewage on the plush beige carpet at U.S. Steel's Chicago office. He also left a tiny casket containing a frog, a crayfish and a perch allegedly killed by the toxic stew he had gathered from a steel-plant pipe that fed into Lake Michigan.

He called himself "The Fox," and while some critics vilified him as the nation's first ecosaboteur, his assaults on alleged corporate polluters caused more embarrassment than damage. He once heaved a


To learn what The Fox meant to the VOF,
read "A Fable for Our Times."

stink-bomb through the window of a Cargill facility--and politely left a money order for $36.48 to pay for the broken pane.

He became an almost mythical figure nationwide in the early environmental movement. Unlike harder-edged activists, he never caused irreparable damage or put lives at risk.

His favorite pastime was talking with schoolchildren, usually over telephone squawk boxes, about the urgent need for them to protect the environment. He rarely, though, shared his real name; when pressed, he identified himself as "Rey," short for renard, the French word for fox. He took the anthropomorphic name, he said, after seeing a mallard hen and its ducklings floating dead in a polluted tributary of the Fox River in Chicago's far western suburbs.

There was a Robin Hood quality to The Fox, who in real life was a school science teacher and, later, a Kane County environmental enforcement officer. He plugged factory sewers with refuse, capped smokestacks with concrete and doused corporate suites with a stew of ground mackerel, cod-liver oil and essence of skunk; he joked that road-kill was a great natural resource.

When U.S. Steel adopted the slogan "We're Involved," The Fox erected a 70-foot-long banner that said, "We're Involved in Killing Lake Michigan." At times he sent potty chairs to exasperated executives who, in his view, needed training in environmental issues. "My targets have to be greedy and ignorant," he once confided to a reporter. "One alone isn't enough. Lots of greedy people don't pollute."

The Fox was never caught, he said, in part because sympathetic friends in law enforcement looked the other way--and because he never picked an undeserving victim. His closest scrape came when he hung a sign on Chicago's Picasso criticizing Mayor Richard J. Daley's plan for a lakefront airport; three accomplices stalled guards until he could change clothes and escape.

Earlier this month, a man named James F. Phillips, age 70, died of complications from diabetes at an Aurora care center. The Fox is gone.

While his acts that damaged property cannot be condoned, it is unarguable that his tactics helped force many companies to clean up their acts. "Society is my jury," he used to say. "The minute people think I'm out of line, that I'm writing the rules to suit me and not them, I'll be caught." The fact that he never was says something about The Fox, and the people he inspired.

Back