The Skunk

In Maine, spring is a time of extremes. On one hand, you're ecstatic to see signs of Winter losing it's grip; on the other you know that the next six weeks are going to be filled with mud, bugs, and whipsaw weather. One morning, it will be in the low 50's, bright blue sky and a balmy breeze. That afternoon, it will snow, as if to say "Gotcha, sucker!" However, as I said, all of this is bearable, even enjoyable, when viewed as The End Of Winter. But I digress...this story isn't about weather. It's about another sure sign of spring...skunks.

My wife and I are dog people. Or, more accurately, I am dog people; my wife permits it, and on occasion enjoys the company of my dog. I endorse the Spanish approach to hospitality when it comes to dogs: "Mi Casa, Su Casa". As a result, the outer shed door is left open to facilitate the comings and goings of our canine compadre. The shed in question also shelters the door to the basement, which door is frequently left ajar as well. Do you begin to see a pattern here?

One balmy spring evening a few years back, the dog du jour, a superannuated Springer Spaniel mix, exhibited an unusually enthusiastic desire to be out of doors. Any time Gatorbait (the name is yet another story) showed any enthusiasm for anything beyond his dish and his bed, it was time to investigate. After convincing Gator that a nap would be more productive than an outdoor excursion at that particular moment (not exactly a Herculean task), I opened the kitchen door that leads into the aforementioned shed, and was greeted with the faint but unmistakable perfume of, to borrow a phrase from my favorite TV commentator, "Le Skunque de Pew". At this point, we were dealing with an inconvenience, not a disaster. It was my fondest wish to keep it so.

I am not a skunk-o-phobe, but experience has taught me that a skunk prefers that his personal space, which is considerable, not be invaded. The consequences of violating this unwritten rule are immediate, intense, and indelible. Bearing this in mind, I proceeded slowly down the landing steps, peering around the corners, and tuning my olfactory radar to its most sensitive setting. Using my not inconsiderable proboscis as a direction finder, it soon became apparent that Monsieur Le Skunque had availed himself of the aforementioned basement door (but then, you knew that was coming didn't you?)

While this complicated matters to some degree, we were still near the inconvenience end of the scale. Our basement, and I suspect we are not alone here, tends to collect whatever debris we are too busy, or too lazy, to store properly or throw away. In short, it is skunk heaven, with a veritable plethora of places to hide and ambush unwary occupants. Very, very carefully, I proceeded to investigate. Tweaking the sensitivity on the old honker up another notch, I poked gingerly here and there, looking for our striped houseguest. The perfume seemed to be emanating from the corner of the basement that housed the hot water heater. Working my way carefully amongst the obstacles, I determined that the odor was definitely stronger in that area. Ever mindful of Mr. Skunk's jealously guarded personal space, I crept closer, attempting to determine his exact location. At first, I though my trusty nose had misled me, as there was no visible sign of the object of my quest. Then, I saw it. The inconvenience-to-disaster scale immediately tipped towards the disaster end. Mr. Skunk, correctly suspecting that he might not be entirely welcome in his current surroundings, decided to exit by the most expeditious means. Unfortunately, his choice of exits left something to be desired. He had decided to depart via the cellar drain. Had he paused to do a bit of basic math, he would have known that his circumference, and that of the drain, were incompatible. He was now firmly wedged, head first (of course) into the drain.

This opened up a whole new vista of possibilities, none of them good. Visions of a full-scale disaster, involving mass evacuations, burning a large percentage of our possessions, and even moving out of town filled my head. I backed out of the basement, and retired to the kitchen to consider my options. After mulling the situation over, I came to the inescapable conclusion that I would be forced to assist Mr. Skunk in his escape. The only method that occurred to me involved a serious invasion of his personal space, manual extraction and transport to surroundings more suited to his taste in cologne. This was not a scenario I looked forward to acting out. Believing firmly that Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance, I prepared myself for the ordeal.

Being a member of the local volunteer fire department involves a good deal of work, but it also carries a few perks. I decided that now would be a real good time to take advantage of that fact. I tooled down to the firehouse, and pulled out one of our semi-retired MSA airpacks. (We had just upgraded to new Scotts) Returning home, I donned an old military rain suit, knee high rubber boots, and the airpack.

Thus insulated against the inevitable results of offending Mr. Skunk's sense of privacy, I resolutely proceeded to the scene of the impending disaster. Carrying a soon to be disposable blanket, I draped it over the protruding end of the skunk, grasped him by the handle conveniently available, and commenced to pull. It is absolutely astounding how strong such a small animal can be. Considering his situation, he was suprisingly reluctant to leave. After a good deal of tugging and snatching more than a few souvenirs from the proffered appendage, I managed to work him loose. Quickly wrapping him in the blanket, and, as yet, unable to detect any appreciable change in the intensity of his odiferous emanations, I carried the struggling bundle well clear of our abode, and, with some trepidation, turned him loose.

Despite his earlier reluctance to be assisted, Pepe, as I now thought of him, made a beeline for the woodline, without so much as a backward glance, or thankfully, a parting shot. While I did indeed dispose of the blanket, I was able to salvage the rain suit, and the airpack was returned to service. Why I wasn't gifted with a healthy dose of Eau de Skunque, I will never know. I don't intend to repeat this experiment in an attempt to establish a trend either. My only regret is that we don't own a video camera. With the proceeds from America's Funniest, I could probably afford to farm for another couple of years!

Back to my Home Page