Tale of The Dancing Fox
Welcome to the fantastic world of the Dancing Fox Winery. Here you will learn the complete story behind the Lewis Family, The Dancing Fox and the world behind the forest in which he dwells.
While some refer to these stories as just legend, others, as the Lewis boys, know more than they let on. Check back every month for the latest addition to the Tale of the Fox.
Chapter 1: The Lewis Family
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a boy named Gregg Lewis, who lived in the big city of Los Angeles. On schooldays, he rode a bus through streets full of traffic and saw throngs of people passing on the sidewalks. At night the glow of the city lights blotted out the flicker of the stars. When weekends came, he played ball in his front yard. Sometimes, he would stop and gaze through the hazy smog to the faraway mountains and imagined himself climbing to their summits.
‘One day,’ he promised himself, ‘I will escape from the city and have adventures.’
And he did. He worked hard, and studied books in university libraries, and saved his money, and when he was all grown up, Gregg moved to the little town of Lodi in Northern California, surrounded by orchards and vineyards. The noise and rush of the city was left behind, and Gregg enjoyed the quieter lifestyle he had discovered.
Not long after this, Gregg’s cousin called him on the phone. ‘I’m getting married,’ his cousin said. ‘You must come to my wedding.’ So Gregg travelled into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, driving along twisting narrow roads. On one side, cliffs fell away into rocky chasms, and on the other, pine trees rose far above him.
At the wedding, right beside the bride, stood a girl in a flowing white dress, with a crown of flowers in her dark hair. After the ceremony, Gregg edged nearer to the place where the girl was talking to friends, her laugh ringing out like a chime of merry bells.
‘I am Colleen,’ she told him.
It did not take Gregg long to realize that this was the person he wanted to share his adventures with. Shortly afterward, they were married. When three sons, Dustin, Jared, and Gabe were born, they decided they needed a new home. After a long search, they found a farmhouse near the small hamlet of Clements. Perched on top of a hill, the house overlooked rolling slopes covered with vineyards and a valley with a river winding its way among ancient oak trees. The Sierra mountains with snow capped peaks could be seen in the distance.
‘The house is old and needs a lot of work,’ Gregg said; ‘and the vineyards will require much time.” ‘We can do it,’ Colleen said as she smiled at him.
They repaired broken beams, painted the walls, and laid new carpets. Colleen’s roses grew in arches in front of the doorways, and she hung pictures in the house. Meanwhile, Gregg landscaped the yards and planted rows of cherry saplings on one of the hills. As the time passed, the Lewis family tended the soil, grafted new vines for the vineyards, and sold many wine grapes to different wineries. For fun, Gregg and the boys would keep some of the grapes for themselves and made their own wine and grape juice in the barn.
One evening, Gregg and Colleen sat on the porch swing, watching their boys play ball on the lawn. Rays of light from the fading sunshine fell on the grapevines and cast shadows down the long rows. Stars began appearing in the darkening sky, and the scent of blossoms drifted through the air. In their happiness of the quiet moments, they did not notice the pair of curious eyes that gleamed in the bushes near them or the swift brush of a red tail as the creature disappeared. And although they did not know it, their grand adventure was only beginning. . .
Dustin dumped his school books on the floor and dropped his soccer ball on the top of the pile. It bounced and rolled into a corner of his room. He flopped down on the bed, regardless of the mud on his jersey. The first week at the new school was finished. The tryout results would not be announced until next week, but Dustin knew he would make the team. His new classmates had quickly accepted him. He was big for his age, friendly, and a good defender. The only dark looks had been from the kid whose kick Dustin had blocked just in time to prevent him from scoring. Apparently, Zach was not accustomed to having someone on the team who could match his skills. Dustin grinned to himself. It would be a good year.
“I miss our old school.” The voice of his six-year-old brother broke into his thoughts.
Dustin turned over and found Jared’s freckled face looking down into his. “It’s too far for Mom to drive now that we’re living in the country.” Dustin replied.
“Yeah, I know.” But Jared’s blue eyes were still troubled.
“By the way,” Dustin asked, suddenly reminded of something he had forgotten in the events of the day. “Did you hear anything last night? Like music?”
Jared wrinkled his nose. “No.”
“Guess it was just a dream,” Dustin said.
Later that night, however, he was again awakened by an eerie melody. He pulled up the window and peered through the screen, trying to distinguish objects in the shrubbery. The stars twinkled over a quiet landscape. Puzzled, Dustin shrugged and returned to bed.
In the nights that followed, however, the serenade continued on through his dreams. Always the same, the song of a single flute began with a lilting rise and then fell into the lower cadences of a minor key. Dustin began humming it to himself; especially in the mornings as he gulped his breakfast and trotted with Jared down the long driveway to meet the school bus.
Returning from school one afternoon, they raced up the hill. Dustin gained the lead and rushed through the screen door, almost colliding with his parents and a girl standing just inside. Although she was in her late teens, she was not much taller than himself. A golden braid crowned her heart-shaped face and delicate features. Dustin realized that she looked unusual and yet felt that he liked her.
“This is our son, Dustin,” Gregg said, his voice sounding amused. “I’m sure he’ll be happy to help you unload the equipment.”
Noticing Dustin’s quizzical look, Colleen explained. “This is one of our new neighbors. We’ve agreed to let her set up some beehives down by the river. Don’t forget the key to the shed.”
Dustin trailed outside after the girl and took the handle of the wagon.
“I’ll pull it,” he said.
When they reached the hillock near the river where the shed stood, Dustin saw that a clearing had been made in the brush nearby. Already, bees were coming and going out of the white hives. He carried the boxes into the shed and let the girl stack them on the shelves. The final wooden box was long and flat, with silver markings engraved on the top. The girl’s fingers played over the top of them before unclasping the lock.
“Did you know that bees are the king’s messengers?” she asked him.
“Huh?” Dustin looked at her curiously. Clearly, he had been right. She was odd.
“I have a message for you.” Opening the cover, she held the box out to him. Inside, a flute lay on a bed of blue velvet. “This is from the king.”
“Um, thanks.” He hesitated. “What am I supposed to do with it?”
Sparkles of light danced in the girl’s eyes as she smiled at him. “Play it, of course. You know the song.”
As Dustin reached out his hands, however, her face grew serious. “It comes with a warning,” she said. “Every gift must be used properly. Only play the songs you are given—nothing else.” And passing him the box, she walked abruptly away.
Dustin stood still, watching until the girl’s white dress disappeared over the hill. Then, he looked down at the flute. Symbols ran in interlocking patterns along its sides. The bees’ quiet buzzing filled the air as Dustin circled around the hives and slid down the bank to the river. A wide curve of the river had allowed a small beach to form, and at the edge of it stood a gigantic oak. The roots stuck out over the water. Clambering up on them, Dustin perched in a small hollow and put the flute to his lips.
Every evening at twilight, when he had finished his dinner and the chores, Dustin returned to the riverbank. Slowly, the melody began to shape itself as his unpracticed fingers found the notes. He could not have told when he first saw the creature appear, but he could not mistake the full brushy tail, the black-tipped ears and nose, and sleek red coat. As the days passed, the fox inched nearer and nearer through the blackberry leaves that grew thick around the sandy bank. If he stopped playing, however, the fox instantly vanished. No amount of whistles or soft callings could bring him back. Deep within himself, Dustin knew that his serenade was a call to the fox, and he became more eager to capture the notes that now echoed through his mind even in the daytime. Autumn came, and the oak leaves began swirling down and alighting around him as he played the flute. The evenings grew darker, and the demanding afternoons of the grape harvest interrupted his practice. But the song was almost complete.
Finally, Dustin perfected a final trill and the last notes died away. Absorbed in the end of his song, he had not noticed the fox stealing through the bushes. Somehow, though, he was not surprised to see it sitting at the foot of his oak, its tail curled around its dainty white feet.
“Hello,” said the fox . . .
“I am the guardian of the grapes,” the fox declared as he pranced around the foot of Dustin’s oak.
“Do you eat them?” Dustin asked suspiciously. He was not surprised that the Fox could speak; it was as though he had been expecting it, just as he had known his song was drawing the Fox to him.
“Of course,” the fox said. “If I do not eat any grapes, I cannot remain in the vineyard. I only eat my due.”
“Who do you guard them from then?” Dustin returned.
“From all evil creatures,” the fox said matter-of-factly. “Not that I have seen any yet, but that is why I guard the vineyard.” He cocked his head to the side, as though considering Dustin for the first time. “Why are you asking all these questions? You are the Piper. You called me here.”
“I don’t know what you mean.” Dustin said, slightly provoked. “What is a piper?”
“More questions,” the Fox stated, shaking his head as though brushing away a bothersome fly. “I am not a scholar of the old legends. You will have to ask someone else about the first piper and the making of his flute.”
Dustin sighed and gave up the hopeless attempt of gaining information from the Fox. He slid down a large root to the ground. “I have to go now,” he said, “I’ll come see you tomorrow.”
As his feet pattered up the road in the effort to make it home before nightfall, Dustin’s mind was busy elsewhere. He could not help thinking that his father would be more concerned about a grape-eating fox in the vineyard than about the possibility of evil creatures haunting it. Nevertheless, in the months that followed, his worries disappeared, buried for the time under his liking for the Fox.
Every day, after rushing through his homework, Dustin would head toward his oak. Together with the Fox, he roamed through the vineyards and explored far along the banks of the Mokelumne River. They crawled over stones, stumbled upon old mining camps, and hiked above narrow gorges where the water churned around spikes of granite. Dustin’s favorite place, however, was near home. Not far from his oak, the river ran under a bridge and then spread out in the calm of a deep pool. Although brambles and underbrush crowded its banks, the Fox discovered that by wading under the bridge, they could skirt around the waterhole and make their way onto a shallow beach. From here, they need only duck under the huge trunk of a fallen sycamore, and they would find themselves in a small thicket, screened on all sides by tangled branches. Dustin would lie on his back, while the spring breezes rustled his hair and set the light-green leaves dancing above him and casting patterns of light and shade. Beside him, the Fox would curl up, apparently resting, but with his watchful eyes and ears taking in every sound and movement.
As the evening shadows fell, Dustin would often pull out his flute and begin playing. The Fox accompanied him on an ancient fiddle. Wisps of light appeared in the brush nearby, twinkling like dim fireflies.
“The wild fruit fairies,” the Fox said softly. “You have summoned them back again.” Dustin smiled in reply. He had almost ceased to wonder at the strange company of the Fox and the power of his flute.
Chapter 4: Princess Saraphina and the Faun
Quietly, cautiously, trying to prevent its usual loud click, Dustin pushed down on the latch. This wasn’t the first time he had been late. Whenever he was with the Fox, he lost track of time. He slid into the front room, only to find his parents sitting on the couch awaiting his return.
“It’s been dark for over an hour.” Gregg’s face was serious. “And what happened to the row of grapes you were supposed to train this afternoon?”
“I was exploring,” Dustin offered lamely.
His father was unimpressed by the explanation. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and I’m counting on you and Jared to help.”
“Your dad has been working on a new wine,” Colleen volunteered. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we won an award at the county competition next month?”
“We’ll be training the vines tomorrow,” Gregg told him. “I’ll expect you to help as soon as you get home from school. And after that, you’ll do your homework. Your teacher called today; he said you’re not paying attention and falling behind in your classes.”
Dustin stared at the ground, his forehead creased in silent frustration. He knew that mentioning the Fox would only bring trouble. After his adventures with the Fox, school seemed unimportant. In class, he was usually planning what they would do next, daydreaming of new twists in the river or banks shadowed by sycamore trees. Regret swept over him, however, as he glanced up and saw his mother’s usually bright smile dimmed with something like disappointment.
The next day, between frequent glances at the slowly moving clock on the wall, Dustin tried to concentrate on the lesson. He heaved a sigh of relief when the bell rang and ducked his head under the desk to grab his backpack. Pulling it up, he found Zach Thompson standing beside his desk, staring at the paper Dustin had filled with scribbles. Prominent among them was an interlocking pattern of knots, spirals, and leaves.
“That’s the logo for my dad’s winery,” Zach said.
“I didn’t know that,” Dustin returned. “It’s just the design on my flute.”
Zach snorted with laughter. “Your flute? I thought all you could do was play soccer. But you’re not even much good at that—just wait until next season.” His eyes narrowed as he looked at the sketch again. “And I bet your dad’s vineyards are on the same level as your playing.”
Before he had time to think, Dustin was standing and facing Zach. “Actually, my dad grows great wine grapes. He’s entering the county competition next month.”
Zach looked smug. “You have any idea who wins that competition every year?”
“Boys?” The teacher’s voice broke into their conversation. Mr. Jackson could sense trouble, and he had long been aware of the simmering hostility between the two. Dustin’s quick rise to popularity had threatened Zach’s easy control over the rest of the class.
“I was just admiring Dustin’s drawing,” Zach answered. He snatched at the page as he turned to leave, but Dustin anticipated the move and pressed his hand down firmly on the paper. “Just wait,” Zach spat under his breath.
Dustin threw his backpack into the house, and bounced through the screen door, letting it bang shut behind him. He raced down the hill toward his oak. As he passed the beehives, the Fox’s head rose out of the surrounding grasses, and Dustin came to an abrupt stop.
“I’m helping my dad this afternoon,” Dustin said.
“Very well.” The Fox’s head disappeared back into the grass. “I’ll just take a nap until you finish.”
“Oh no, you don’t.” Dustin replied. “Didn’t you say you’re the guardian of the grapes? These grapevines are important—we have to take care of them! So start guarding!”
The Fox yawned in reply, his red tongue lolling out over his white teeth. As Dustin ran back up the road, however, the Fox’s lengthy form straightened and his ears pricked forward. “He is learning,” the Fox announced, with the bees as his only listening audience.
When Dustin reached the top of the hill, he could see his father down one of the rows. Tendrils with delicate leaves were already appearing on the dark stalks, and Gregg was tying the loose ends of the vines, training them along the wires. Dustin jogged toward him, dodging under several lines of the vineyard, and ending up at his father’s side.
“There you are,” Gregg said. “You can start on the next row.”
“Sure,” Dustin took the green tape and the cutter from his pocket. He paused. “Dad,” he asked, “who won the wine competition last year?”
Gregg looked pleased at his sudden interest. “Bill Thompson,” he said. “I’m not planning on beating him though. Vineyards have been in his family since the first grapes were grown in the San Joaquin Valley, and their winery sells prize-winning varieties all over the country. But with a lot of hard work, I hope to bring some acclaim to the Lodi appellation. Some grape cutting I obtained in a rather mysterious way several years ago may give us an advantage.”
“What cuttings?” Dustin said.
“I’ll tell you about it someday,” Gregg replied. His eyes assumed a faraway look as he gazed across the acres of his vineyards. In the air of late spring, the mountains were clear in the distance. The rolling hills stretching toward them were clothed in green, and a single hawk soared in the cloudless blue above them. Dim dreams, some still as far off as the snow-capped peaks, drifted through Gregg’s mind. Then, with a laugh, he returned to reality and ruffled Dustin’s hair. “For a new vineyard, it would be something just to place against all those big growers and wineries, wouldn’t it? All right, enough time wasted; back to work.”
Between catching up with homework and training vines, over a week passed before Dustin could return to the Fox. On Saturday, though, Gregg was making a trip to town to buy parts for the tractor. When Dustin woke in the early morning, his room was already flooded with light, and patches of blue sky showed between the birch trees outside his window. He threw on his clothes and sprinted to the oak, but no fox appeared to meet him. Dustin searched through the bushes and waded down the river, calling for him in a low voice. The only answer was birdsong and the rushing flow of the water. Finally, Dustin returned and dropped down beside the oak, full of disappointment. Could the Fox have left? He pulled aside a stone, revealing a dark cavity under one of the roots, and reached his hand inside. His fingers touched the box containing his flute, and he clutched it in relief. At least all his adventures hadn’t been a dream. He pulled the flute from its hideaway, and light notes filled the air, quickening into a merry dance. Unlike the serenade he had practiced for the Fox, he already seemed to know the notes. The springtime feeling of the day wove itself into the song, and Dustin played on, unexplained joy welling within him.
Hearing a movement behind him, he turned to welcome the Fox. Instead, a young woman stepped out of the shadow of the tree. Long ringlets fell over her shoulders, and Dustin noticed that both her ears narrowed in a slight point. Her pale face showed surprise and disapproval.
“Why have you brought me here?” she asked. “I was just about to crown the best dancer of the springtime festival.”
Although Dustin was astonished by her appearance, he already knew the answer. “I think I need your help,” he said. “My dad has to win a wine competition.”
The girl’s keen eyes took in Dustin’s eager face and the flute hanging from his hands, and her own face softened. “I am honored to meet you, Piper, but I know nothing of wine-making. Perhaps you could bring a faun to us? They are clever creatures.”
“Yes, a faun would be perfect,” said the Fox, unexpectedly appearing from the bracken. Like a contented cat, he rubbed his sleek side against Dustin’s leg. “You must focus on a faun.”
In the days that followed, Dustin spent his afternoons in the vineyards working with his dad and finished his homework before bedtime. After the lights went out, however, and the house grew quiet, he would pull up his window and remove the screen. Creeping through the opening, he would land carefully on the moss amid the birch trees. Normally, he would have been afraid to walk down the hill alone, but he knew that Saraphina and the Fox would be waiting for him. Far enough away that their music would not awaken the sleeping household, they would settle down near the beehives. The Fox would sit alertly at his side, while the Princess weaved flowers into her ringlets; in the moonlight, they seemed to float against the darkness of her hair.
Dustin tried to follow the Fox’s advice, but he had no idea what kind of song he should play for a faun. Night after night, the notes fell heavy and disjointed. At last, Dustin gave up in disgust.
“This is impossible,” he groaned.
Saraphina raised her eyebrows. “You are the Piper. I didn’t want to come here, and you brought me without even trying. Certainly, you can bring a faun.” She lifted a small harp that hung from the girdle encircling her slender waist. “I will help you.”
A series of gliding notes floated through the night and awakened an answer in Dustin’s flute. He began to play while Saraphina accompanied him. Slowly, his hesitant notes swelled into song.
The Fox lifted his paw. “Listen,” he said. Dustin stopped playing. Down the dirt road came the tripping sound of hooves. The faun’s face peeked around the side of the beehive. Tight golden curls stuck out around his face, and his wide blue eyes looked straight at Dustin.
“Please,” Dustin blurted out, in his eagerness forgetting the need for introductions. “Won’t you help us with the winemaking?”
The Faun drew back. “Do you think I’m just a servant to be brought and ordered about?” he asked. “Why should I help you?”
“Because I ask it,” a voice said. Dustin turned to find Saraphina standing behind him, a look of displeasure on her face. “Have I not warned you to guard against your pride, Faun?” she said severely, “Particularly when someone asks for your aid.” Even when harsh, Dustin thought her sweetness and gentleness were evident. The Faun, however, appeared overcome by shame and remorse.
“Oh Princess,” he said with a deep bow. “I am yours to command.”