Thursday, September 15, 2011
After the “Woof, Woof!” I hold my breath and listen. On good nights I hear the scramble of two or three deer hustling out of our yard. The deer love our grapes leaves, then the grapes; apple and pear leaves, then the apples and the pears.
On not so good nights all is quiet …. too quiet. About a minute after Lucy’s bark, skunk stench blasts us. I think the skunk must spray directly beneath our bedroom window. All too often we end up closing the windows just when the house is cooling down for the night. According to a recent Nova program skunks don’t spray unless really provoked. Somehow Lucy succeeds in provoking without getting herself sprayed. We must have a colony of skunks with a really itchy trigger.
When we first moved into this house we were somewhat unsettled to find we had skunks under the house. We half-heartedly tried to evict them, but generally speaking we all got along well together … until one night. The little dears waged war under our house! The stink was awful! I felt as though we should just give the house away. Our daughters went to school and anyone nearby smelled skunk. Dale went to work and the subject of skunk came up. I stayed home and hoped I’d become numb. It does go away …. eventually. Fortunately Dale was now motivated. He figured out a way to close off the foundation with the skunks outside and not trapped inside. He built a swinging door for our crawl space with nasty little spikes all around its edge. The skunks could easily push their way out, but getting back in just wasn’t going to happen.
Speaking of stinky, I have an even stinkier story. When I attended the University of Wisconsin I had a job in the Natural History Museum as a bone cleaner. My job was to end up with a box full of nice clean bones for each species I worked on: jumping mice, Swainson thrushes, flying squirrels, etc. Most of the specimens either came out of a freezer and I boiled them, or they went to the dermestid colony. Dermestids are little beetles very adept at cleaning up a carcass and leaving me a little pile of almost clean bones. Usually I worked a very flexible schedule, but one day my boss call and asked if I could possibly come down right now. A rather stinky package had just arrived.
It happened my next class was in one of the University’s enormous lecture halls. I believe it held 300 students and was at least half full. I liked to sit near the front. All too soon students around me commented on skunk smell . I took a deep breath and commented too. I looked like any normal co-ed, and pretended I was as normal as I looked. Nobody guessed exactly where the smell was coming from.
After class I walked over a mile back to my dorm. Surely I was ‘freshened’ by then. But, no. As soon as I entered my dorm the subject of skunks came up again. It was time for action. I bagged all my cloths and hung them out the window and then I showered. Finally I could walk into a room without the subject of skunks coming up.
Do I know of anything stinkier than that incident? Oh, yes! Dale can do me one better. When he was working as a soil scientist in Alaska he found a humpback whale deliquescing on a beach. Much his surprise a black bear came running out from inside the whale. The bear obviously didn’t mind the smell, but Dale said he couldn’t stand getting close to the whale.