Monday, October 09, 2006

Skunked

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.
...............to be continued

6 Comments:

Blogger Patti said...

hahaha No self respecting cat in it's right mind would take on a skunk!

9:13 PM  
Blogger Chicken Mama said...

Fantastic story! Loved it! Sounds like some of our attempts at predator control! Can't wait to hear the rest.

Laura
www.blessedacresfarm.com

1:13 PM  
Blogger Lynn said...

You are quite the story teller! I'll have to make sure the boys read this one. We've had a couple of skunk encounters, but nothing like this!

10:40 PM  
Blogger mountainfirekeeper said...

Hi Russ!

I also think that you are quite the story teller!!! All the while I was reading, I imagined you actually shooting the skunk in the goat shed and that skunk letting fly during its death spasms---I've experienced it more than once!!! Which of course, will make your goat shed--and whole yard-- extremely uninviting for a long time.

I'm glad that you survived God's little 'lesson' with nothing more than a scratch and some wounded pride.

An oldtimer told me how to live catch and move a skunk with relative safety.

Use an old cream can. Place the cream can near where the skunk normally comes--like by your catfood dish. Set it on it's side with some straw or similar bedding inside. Place several eggs in it to 'bait' the skunk. The skunk will eat the eggs and decide it's quite happy with its new den. Most likely it will be sleeping inside the cream can the next day. Just sneek up on the cream can, put the cover on--if you are really brave--you can look inside the can first to see if the skunk is actually inside. Gently tilt the can upright, haul the can away from the house---now comes the fun part!!! Either haul it a long way away and release it live (like by your unfriendly neighbor's house--just kidding) or open the lid, shake the can upside down to dislodge the skunk--run like crazy to a safe distance away and then shoot it. That way, if the skunk sprays in its death throes, it doesn't massively stink up your whole yard!!!

Looking forward to hearing "the rest of the story!"

Best wishes!

12:00 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

Hey Russ! Great story! No fair keeping us in suspense so long with the sequel, though! ;^D

11:55 AM  
Blogger RL said...

Sorry folks for waiting so long to reply to your comments and to post the rest of the story. Alot has transpired since I made the post. Been busy doing business related stuff. Were getting one or two new trucks and getting all the financing all squared away, etc. And in the midst of all that we had another funeral to attend in Iowa. I'll probably be making a post about it sometime in the future.
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Patti,
I'm thinking our last bunch of cats must have not been very self respecting or probably in their right minds either for that matter since I'm pretty sure they at least threatened most intruders. They were quite territorial and had many a cat fight in the wee hours of the night.

Speaking of taking on skunks we have some friends around here that have a dog that just loves to kill them.
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Chicken Mama,
Thanks! Until this, our attempts at predator control haven't been near this exciting.
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Lynn,
With all the things that can happen in the country coming up with a story isn't too difficult. I just think of myself as being kind of a reporter just retelling a real life event is all. Never a dull moment.
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Steven,
Thanks for the tip. I'll be sure to try it next time. You are truly a wealth of information. I sure do appreciate your wisdom.
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Emily,
Thanks! Nice to hear from you. I was planning on finishing the story tonight but, just learned we have someplace to go this evening so I'm not sure if I'll get it posted tonight or not. If not tonight hopefully sometime this week.
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God bless!

5:20 PM  

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