Farm Progress

Joy’s Reflections: Making friends with a skunk can be hazardous to other friendships.

Joy McClain

November 30, 2018

3 Min Read
LEARN TO COEXIST: Mr. Skunk and I are on our third winter of tolerating each other.mirceax/Getty Images

At first, I thought it was one of the barn cats waddling past the animals and right in front of me as I was headed to shut a gate. But none of the cats has a stripe down its back. Panic enveloped me as I realized I’d all but stepped on a skunk. I finished those evening chores in record time.

The next night, there he was again. Only this time, he’d made himself at home in the feed room and walked right past me again. He just hung out in the corner. So, it’s possible to keep one eye on a varmint while moving around, doing evening feeding. Even without picking up a shovel, I got a good cardio workout with my increased heart rate.

We could set a trap. Yup, but then what? I’d watched my dad drape a trap after a skunk had been caught. I never knew he could tiptoe quite like that. Keeping his arms straight out while holding the lightweight blanket in front of him to shield himself from the view of the skunk, he moved ever so gracefully forward. He had the elegance of a prima ballerina on center stage.

When he reached the cage, he leaned forward slowly and carefully placed the blanket over the trap. His big hands lifted the caged skunk with great precision. Once the cage was loaded softly into the back of the pickup, I stopped watching. I knew where he was headed, and I never liked to think about that. But now that I was having nightly dates with Pepe Le Pew, I was thinking about how good that cage seemed.

My evenings became a beat-the-sun event. I reasoned that if I could get in and out before darkness closed in, I’d be safe. Same thing for morning — there wasn’t any hurry until it was light out. I made it through that whole first winter without having to bathe in tomato juice.

The next winter it was the same scenario. Only by year two, I half expected Mr. Stink to talk to me, like the Badger dressed in a gentleman’s suit with a frog in his vest from the children’s books I so loved as a child. Mr. Stink never spoke, but you could almost set your clock by his appearance.

He didn’t even really dig into the feed. It seemed all he wanted was to be a part of the night crowd. I came and went, walking past him just as he had sauntered past me. Spring came, and he packed his little skunk bag and left with winter.

This year, I wouldn’t say we’re friends — maybe more like two ships that pass in the night. Let me just say that I’m grateful for his passing and his not spraying. Maybe Mr. Stink isn’t so bad. At least he’s a single male, not looking to bring any wife and kids along. I suppose if we just keep our respected distance, we’ll make it again to spring without any tomato juice.

McClain writes from Greenwood, Ind.

About the Author(s)

Joy McClain

Joy McClain writes from Greenwood, Ind.

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