Wednesday, October 25, 2006



The moment of truth had come, after dark I went out doing the same sneaking around the garden beds with air rifle and flash light in tow. I shined my light into the goat shed door and there was skunk number two. My eyes widened and my mouth dropped. Number one did have a buddy, perhaps a mate and here it was leisurely dinning on a high protein cuisine. And at our expense! Kelli was wondering why the cats were eating so much lately. By the way the cats around here hunt for sport, not necessarily for sustenance. We began just giving them enough food to keep them close to home and to keep them looking good but, in time they have become rather spoiled. If I had my way they’d have to work harder for their keep but, that’s a different subject entirely. Anyway it was like some kind of instant replay of previous nights.

The skunk just glanced my way then turned and kept eating just like business as usual. And there were our darling felines cozying up to this odorous unwelcome intruder just like before. This skunk however, was a little scruffier than the first. It had been raining so perhaps it hadn’t had a chance to groom itself. No need to clean up for dinner I suppose, this was casual dinning.

Well, remembering my previous escapades I decided to lower my expectations and this time try to just relax. If I hit it I hit it, if I didn’t I didn’t, no big deal, there was always next time, provided I didn’t do myself any serious bodily harm. Relax, I kept telling myself. Just take your time, get the light held right get the gun aimed on the target. Easy shot, no problem, right? Right! By this time with all my deep breathing exercises and self help advice skunk II starts getting a little nervous. I mean that’s only natural, I get a little uneasy myself when people stare at me when I’m eating. Or then again maybe it knew there was danger in the air from skunk number ones passing. (Pun intended.) So scruffy skunk starts moving around a bit. Looking at me then looking at the food dish , turning a little to the side then turning back to the food dish. Probably didn’t know if it should take a defensive posture or just keep eating. Hmm, that food must sure be good. So now scruffy skunk is kind of a moving target. Now I’m kicking myself for not just shooting when I had an easy shot. So in haste I squeezed the trigger. And wouldn’t you know, my luck was not improving not one bit. I missed!!!

At that point I was beyond disgusted with myself. Scruffy skunk didn’t stay put for me to pump up the gun and reload. It was on the move. High tailing it (literally) back to it’s den. There I was doing my black powder rifle re-enactments, putting in about ten pumps and fumbling for that tiny 5mm pellet in the dark and trying to place it in the right direction all the while in hot pursuit. Shooting wildly several times at the moving target my accuracy still dismal at best. Instead of going to the red shed scruffy skunk went in the basement of our old gray barn. It squeezed through an unbelievably narrow gap between the door and the wall. I was amazed at how small a space it could wiggle through.

Of course the story gets better as you might expect. As I was contemplating going in after it I noticed it’s little black nose poking out through the gap sniffing the air inquisitively. If my pride was wounded from my first episode steam was coming out of my ears by this point. So, through the loading ritual I went. And another miss for my thoroughly bruised ego. At least I was being consistent, I consoled myself. I had one of two choices to make. I could go in after it or call it a night and chalk it up to another polecat victory. Polecat, two points. Human, zip. Sounds like the score at some red neck sporting event. Should have had our friend, John Heise post it on his sports website for posterity. If I went in after the skunk and with the luck I’d been having I figured there was probably a very good likelihood that in such tight quarters I’d get sprayed. Best just to leave Scruffy alone, for now.

As you can imagine I was pretty well perplexed as to why I was having such a time dispatching a couple silly little skunks. During the day times while I was out working my mind would drift back to those evenings and I would replay them in my head. If I just did this, if I just did that. Up until now I was sure God had enabled me to swiftly take out other predators but, for some reason He was making me work for these. Patience, perhaps I was learning patience and perseverance. If I always had it easy maybe I’d take it for granted or even take the credit, while patting myself on the back at what a good shot I am, when it comes down to it, when the stakes are high.

By the next night I was beginning to grow weary of this little after hours ritual I was starting to get in to. Back out into the dark. Loaded pellet gun in one hand flash light in the other. Over the fence. Around the raised beds. Shine the light in the shed. There’s scruffy glancing at me disgustingly. This time I’m getting a little bored and discouraged with my lack of success. I shined the light with my left hand while resting the gun on my left forearm. Holding steady, aimed, took a breath, still holding and squeezed, fffump, this time the skunk jumped! I hit it! But, uh oh. It didn’t drop like the other one did when I finally hit that one. It took off. I was sure I hit it. I slammed in ten or so pumps into the air rifle, got the pellet loaded and met the scruffy skunk on it’s way to the barn. Took my shot on the move and this time there was no doubt, I hit again. If there was any doubts the first time I was certain on this one. It was wounded and limping but, still managed to slip back inside the basement. There was no turning back now. I couldn’t let it go wounded.

Now, the basement of the old gray barn has been kind of a catch all over the years. So it is full of all kinds of stuff. It’s dark and damp and totally a great place for some foul beast to dwell. I whipped open the door which didn’t whip open quite as expected. Since it doesn’t get used that much, time and inactivity makes things kind of bind up. Sagging hinges and years of freezing and thawing the door dug into the dirt before it was fully open. So here I am in the dark trying to handle the loaded and ready to fire air rifle and grasping the flash light and muscling the door open ripping it through the sod I finally was ready to do battle with a wounded and cornered skunk. I took my proven stance. Light and gun working in sync and into the dark dank basement with a slight shiver running down my spine. But, to my complete surprise I spotted it. The skunk was only partially hidden under a board. It’s back side was turned towards me so it was hard to shoot at something vital. But, I shot it anyway. I hit it and it crawled further under the board to where I couldn’t see it. I figured it was just a matter of a few moments and it would expire. Just for good measure I fired several more shots under the board just to make sure. Odds were in such a tight pot the pellets were sure to find their mark. The problem was the only way to look under there would to put myself completely in the line of fire of skunk spray if it wasn’t dead yet. Except that at this point I don’t suppose it mattered much anyway since ever square inch of air was thick with skunk smell. In fact it was so thick you could taste it. It was horrible actually. Nonetheless I called Kelli on my cell phone for her to bring out a mirror so I could take a peak from a safe distance.

No sooner did I get her on the phone and I just about fell over with disbelief. That scruffy skunk was still ALIVE and came limping out from under that board and crawled into a large spool of wire laying in the corner under some other junk. This was turning into some kind of horror movie. Like when they kill the bad guy over and over and the thing just doesn’t die kind of horror movie. The skunk was wounded that was for sure and probably would have died but, I HAD to finish it. Kelli came on out to help. She held the flash light for me. It would take a half dozen more shots to bring an end to the ordeal. With the last shot the scruffy skunk raised it’s tail and I got a birds eye view of it’s working end fully expecting to get blasted but, apparently there wasn’t anything left. Didn’t really matter anyway. Everything within a 50 yard radius smelled like skunk anyhow. Including at this point both me and Kelli.

During the weeks that have past since the great skunk ordeal, as it has become to be known, I have thought and pondered as to the lesson’s there have been to learn through all of it. Like almost breaking my bloomin neck and bruising my ego and such. You never know when you will live your last day so you should never take things for granted. It has been a humbling experience really even though I fared quite a bit better than those two. I’m still here to tell the tale and they are, well, in the great by and by where skunks all smell like roses and don’t eat chickens.

But, before you get the wrong impression of me I should say I’m not the type of person who likes to kill things. If it weren’t for our poultry, bad smells and the fact that skunks are common carriers of rabies I would have let them be. And I really felt bad that I didn’t get that second skunk with the first shot, not for my ego’s sake but, the poor skunks sake. Things like that do bother me. I’m a sensitive guy really. Nonetheless I am glad they are gone and it is all behind us.

As you can see these pictures below are proof that I wasn’t just making all this up. It all happened just about exactly like I said believe it or not.

That's me holding up the two culprits. It's hard to tell in the picture but that's a clothes pin on my nose.

Until Next Time

Monday, October 09, 2006


Had some unwelcome barn yard guests recently. By the distinctive odor in the air we knew we had a skunk hanging out in the vicinity. Over the years the under side of our red shed has come under the occasional occupancy of the polecat kind. But, since living here these past 8 and a half years they have not been permanent fixtures. I have attributed the temporariness of the visitations to our wiley and territorial farm cats. However those first cats have since passed and we are now down to the offspring of just one of those hardy originals and he is just a fat neutered grandfatherly old timer. Lazy and unaffected by strangers in his midst.

Several weeks had gone by and with that skunky smell in the air I was keeping my eyes peeled for any sightings of a black and white striped varmint. From the smell of it there was most certainly one living under the red shed. You could even see a fresh path being beat in the grass from it’s coming and goings during it’s frequent nocturnal excursion’s. A little too close to our poultry for comfort.

More often than not my evening chores don’t get started until after the sun has all but set. So I usually throw on my trusty head mounted flash light and off I go to top off water dishes, feed bowls and to make sure everything is in order for the coming night. Well one night in particular I stepped into the goat shed and got quite a startling surprise. Even though we aren’t doing goats anymore we still call it the goat shed. It used to be home of our resident milk goat. We also had a stanchion set up in it which made a real nice place to do the milking. Now it is a multipurpose shed, housing tools, grain and of course barn cats. By all rights we should start calling it the cat house but, I suppose it would be best not to do that so as not to get any nasty rumors going around about us. I can see the headlines now “Cat House In Sugar Camp”.

Anyway to get back to this one particular night. I was simply doing my usual routine and stepped up into the goat shed only to be greeted by not a feline cat, but an honest to goodness black and white stripped Polecat. I think it was as surprised to see me as I was of it. Since I practically walked right over the thing I just about jumped out of my shoes. I did an immediate about face and went strait back to the house to retrieve my Sheridan air rifle. I’ve been meaning to get a shot gun for times just such as these but, have never gotten around to making the investment. I do have a high powered rifle that I use for deer hunting but wouldn’t even think about blasting away in the darkness with that thing being so close to the house and our domestic animal friends. I’ve had this air rifle since I was a kid and with enough pumps it can be quite lethal. So I quickly pumped it up and loaded it on the fly. Got back to the shed , but this time kept a respectable distance wondering just where exactly that skunk might have gone. Would it still be in the shed or did I scare it out of there? At this point I was sure wishing I had put some fresh batteries in my head light as I was quickly realizing it wasn’t up to it’s normal illuminating capacity. Actually it was quite dim. About that time I was in position to peak into the open shed being ready with an itchy trigger finger.

I could not believe my eyes. The skunk was still there. It was happily eating away with it’s face down in the cats food dish. The unbelievable part was that it was surrounded by cats. Not curious and threatened cats. No these where comfortable cats. I had just wakened them from their slumber and they came out to great me just like business as usual. Obviously the skunk eating out of their food dish was not a new thing. He was just part of the family. Might as well have just been another cat. Our old cats would never have tolerated such a thing. Not this new generation, no they’ll just let in any old stray. So what if he smells bad.

Well, this was my chance. I was a little worried I’d hit one of our cats even though I was quite irritated at them for allowing this unwelcome visitor. But, the skunk didn’t seem too fazed by my presence and kept eating just giving me the occasional glance. So I took aim and was really, really wishing I had some fresh batteries in my light. Sighting it in was pretty much useless so I just literally took a shot in the dark. And missed. Then to my dismay I realized that in my haste I had forgotten to bring more pellets with me. I guess I figured it was an easy shot so why bother. By this point I was pretty bothered. I ran back to the house all the while putting in some more pumps. I got the thing loaded and ran back to the shed. Too late. It made a getaway while I was gone.

So all the next day I plotted my revenge. I was going to be ready if there was going to be a next time. I’ve never really been that good at target shooting but, I have taken some pride in being pretty good at taking out predators when they come near the homestead. It seems, when it really counts my accuracy gets a lot better. Plus I usually say a quick prayer before I pull the trigger.

Night time came and I was ready. Though I still didn’t have new batteries for my head light I did have a high powered flash light that came with my cordless drill. I got the air rifle pumped up and loaded had a pocket full of pellets. And for good measure just so I was sure to have enough light I put on my head mounted flash light. Out into the darkness I went. Armed to the teeth and loaded with determination. My honor was now on the line. I made my way to the shed in an around about way, climbing over a fence to avoid going too close and spooking the beast before I could get a clear shot. Rounding my way past the raised beds I got in line with the entrance to the building. If it was in there this would surely be the night of it’s demise. It would not get away a second time. In eager anticipation I snapped on the flash high powered flash light and pointed it into the shed. Sure enough it had returned. The skunk was again feasting out of the cat dish. And again cats were loitering around totally unfazed. My heart pounded with anticipation. But, I then learned that I hadn’t given any thought at all as to how I was going to hold the light and take aim with the air rifle. I found that I was awkwardly trying to hold the light with my left hand and was sort of holding up the rifle pistol style with my right. It was like something out of a bad dream, I couldn’t hold my aim. It was all over the place. Was my heart pounding too hard? What was I thinking trying to hold the flash light and the gun at the same time. I should have had some help. I needed someone else to hold the light while a took the shot.

After the close call the night before that skunk wasn’t going to dilly dally there enjoying a free meal so it decided to make a hasty retreat. No! I was loosing my chance. I dropped the flash light and just tried to see with the headlight and took another shot in the dark. This time it was a moving target and it just kept on moving. Missed again. Now my ego was really starting to hurt. So in hot pursuit I re-pumped the gun and loaded it on the fly. I was beginning to feel a kinship to our ancestors who hunted and fought with black powder guns, having to go through all that just to pull off another shot. The skunk went between the shed and the old corral getting hemmed in under some junk kind of stashed in between there. I couldn’t see much of anything. I could just hear it fumbling around trying to find a way out. I wondered if it had been wounded or not. Not wanting to add insult to injury by getting sprayed I decided to climb up on the fence so as not to be in range, or so I hoped, if it decided to fire back. A couple times I spotted it’s white stripe in the darkness. All I had to do was just inch a little closer. Scooting along kind of half straddling the fence and all the while trying to aim the gun I was still fooling around with that blasted flashlight.

Little did I know that in my haste I was actually getting myself into kind of an awkward situation, then all of a sudden CRACK, the top fence rail broke in two and I went head over heels over the opposite side of the fence. Really I’m quite sure a miracle took place that night. Because by all rights it could have been my end. There in the dark I landed head and shoulder first right on an old antique push mower that we use around the garden beds. I smacked my ear and the side of my head on a metal support just behind the blades. It’s amazing all that can happen in a split second. One minute your up the next minute your down. I can still relive it all in my head like it was in slow motion. The crack of the fence rail, the plunging into the darkness, flash light flying, pellet gun discharging as it hit the ground and my still being alive after hitting the side of my face and head on a hard piece of metal. When the gravity of the situation came to me as I lay there momentarily assessing the damages or possible damages I was really quite surprised to still be breathing. And I didn’t even shoot myself.

I could feel a little blood as I held my ear, so I went back to the house to have Kelli give me a look over. Amazingly I only had minor cuts. So back out after the skunk. I did find it as it was making it’s way back to the red shed and I did pop off a couple more shots as it went and missed every time. I was still pretty shook up from the fall. But, at this point I was realizing the Lord must have some lesson here for me to learn.

Well, it certainly wounded my pride. That was for sure. I got skunked by the skunk which oddly had a humbling effect on me. I mean I had every confidence that I was going to shoot that thing. There was no doubt in my mind. Yet here I was having to admit that perhaps I hadn’t been giving credit where credit was due in my ability to dispatch the predators which occasionally come too close.

I went on to miss that skunk one more time but, by the third encounter it finally met it’s end. The Lord surely helped me out with that one, plus He kindly gave me the knowledge of how to hold the flash light and gun at the same time and be able to actually take a decent aim.
I was pretty relieved to have that smelly thing dead. But, just to be on the safe side I kept a wary eye out for any buddies he might have had. A few days went by and I decided to go out one evening to see if we were really skunk free. be continued