As I was passing through the kitchen, Daddy waved at me to come outside, and then directed me to a big cardboard box he had placed by the steps. His words, “Be careful,” slowed my headlong approach, and I peeked cautiously over the edge of the box to see three small balls of black and white fur. “Baby skunks! Where did you find them?”
“They were wandering around in the field looking for food,” Daddy said. “They’re so thin and weak, they must have been without their mother for several days.”
I touched the box, and three tails went up, and I jumped back. “Don’t worry,” Mom said as she picked one up and handed it to me. “These guys are so young their ‘perfume’ glands haven’t developed yet, so they are safe for now.” The baby skunk was as soft as satin as I stroked him.
“Maybe we could have their glands removed so we could keep them as pets?” Mom just smiled and told me we couldn’t possibly keep three skunks as pets, and it wouldn’t be fair to them because removing their glands would leave them defenseless, whether in the wild or not.
Mom did suggest that if we handled the skunks a lot, maybe they’d get used to us and be tame and safe for a while. We did handle them, and fed them Mom’s special milk and honey formula in a baby bottle, but every time we picked them up we could feel them squeezing their tummies in an effort to fire their odor defense artillery! Three stubborn stinkers by instinct!
One Sunday morning as we turned in the driveway returning from church, we knew our baby trio had come of age, and that something had startled them. The whole area around the drive and side of the house stunk with the scent of skunk! “It’ll blow away,” I cried, “Can we keep them a little longer?” My plea fell on deaf ears as Daddy said they had to go — “Now!”
When we were ready to take them, Mom carefully tucked their tails under and slipped the three skunks into a gunnysack. Mom explained that skunks flick their perfume with their tails, as well as spray, so holding their tails down would prevent them from “firing.” I knew from experience that with tails up, skunks can sure “flick!”
We drove seventy miles north to a large protected forest area, and down a utility road about a mile from a Boy Scout camp where I had been the previous summer. I was told there were no skunks in that area, because the ground was sandy, and there wasn’t enough food for the skunks to eat. Daddy thought with a lake and stream nearby, and the large forest reserve, they would be okay. Daddy put the sack down and opened it, and the babies marched away in single file as though they knew exactly where they were going.
It was several years later when I was in my tent at that Boy Scout camp again, and just settling down on my bunk for the night, when the unmistakable fragrance of skunk drifted in to my nose. “Wow!” I thought, “Our stubborn trio had survived in the wild, and something has startled them.” Mom and Daddy were pleased to hear the news that our three stubborn stinkers, or their descendants, were alive and casting their scent in the woods, to live free and happy ever after.
TALE OF A TAIL
“Pick a skunk up by the tail,” they say,
‘cuz upside down he cannot spray.
Is it possible, without fail,
To pick a skunk up by the tail?
I bet it’s just a country joke,
To have some fun with city folk.
I’ll put this folklore to the test,
And any doubts I’ll put to rest!
I saw a skunk out in the field,
In knee-high grass I crept concealed.
I grabbed his tail up, yesser-eee!
But when I got him, he “got” me!
So friends, let common sense prevail,
And don’t pick skunks up by the tail!
I sure did prove this saying wrong,
I hope this smell won’t last too long.