I was cruising down a lonesome, moonlit stretch of Highway 70 the other night when I got a whiff of love in the air.
In the springtime skunks wax romantic, and sometimes they’re so love-struck and giddy they forget to look both ways before they cross the road.
Sure enough, up ahead lay a defunct Romeo in a striped suit, permanently late for the prom.
It called to mind the 1972 song by Loudon Wainwright III, “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road,” a sentimental ballad popular at weddings.
Every time I see (or sniff) a skunk, it takes me back – back to the second grade at Woody Elementary. My old mutt Kazan cornered a skunk in a fence row one night, and I ran over to lend a hand. Kazan and I got sprayed from head to foot — and on my feet were my new school shoes.
Next day when I strolled into class, noses wrinkled and heads turned. Miss Bristow opened all the windows, but it didn’t help. I became the first kid in school history to be sent home because of odor.
At least they didn’t nickname me Stinky.
My mom tried cleaning my shoes with everything from laundry detergent to tomato juice, but nothing helped. She finally gave up and threw away my skunky shoes. It was touch-and-go with Kazan and me.
I once had a pet skunk. I skunk-napped him as he and four siblings trotted across a dirt road behind their mama like little fuzzy, striped tennis balls. I put him in a chicken-wire cage and named him Squiffy.
Squiffy let me scratch his ears, ate table scraps from my hand, and grew fat as a butterball. I eventually felt sorry for him, cooped up like that, and decided to set him free. The pardoned polecat waddled across the field and disappeared into the woods.
I like to think Squiffy met a nice lady skunk and lived happily ever after.
One night a skunk mistook my grandma’s hen house for a KFC restaurant and tunneled inside for a chicken dinner. Grandma set a trap, and when the thief returned for a second helping, he got caught. Grandma dispatched him in close-quarter combat.
Somehow she didn’t get sprayed, but her chickens were foul fowl for some time.
In Tennessee, skunks are classified as fur-bearers, but their pelts fetch only a few dollars. (For some reason, skunk-skin coats and stoles never caught on in the fashion world.)
Trapping nuisance skunks for residential removal is more profitable. Urban trappers charge as much as $300 per critter.
Catching a home-body skunk in a live-trap is fairly simple; giving it an odorless escort off the premises is the tricky part.
Skunks don’t go looking for trouble. But if you scare them or make them mad, they stamp their front feet and flair their tail as a warning. They’re locked and loaded and ready to shoot.
The little stinkers aren’t bluffing.