Welcome Wednesday guests for October:
10/01 Finding Sky author, Susan O'Brien;
10/08 Award-winning Hank Phillippi Ryan (Truth Be Told);
10/15 Indie authors Polly Iyer (Backlash) and Ellis Vidler (Prime Target);
10/22 Murder by the Month author, Jess Lourey;
10/29 Marilyn Levinson, Golden Age of Mystery Book Club Mystery author.

Gloria Alden's latest publication is nonfiction. Boys Will Be Boys: The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys. Edited by Cher'ley Grogg was recently released and available on Amazon. Gloria wrote three essays and two poems in her chapter included in the book.

Don't miss this month's release of Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays on October 7th, in which WWK bloggers Shari Randall ("Disco Donna") and E. B. Davis ("Compromised Circumstances") have short stories.

KM Rockwood's
short stories will appear in two anthologies released in October. They are: "The Lure of the Owl" in Swamp Mansion and Other Dark Stories, to be released as a ebook, and "Aunt Olga and the Werewolf" will be included in the third Creatures, Crimes and Creativity anthology release by Intrigue Publishing. at their conference in October.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Skunk and I


It started with a slight whiff of that distinctive unpleasant odor. I was eating lunch with my cousins on my patio. I thought maybe a skunk had become a victim of road kill the night before, and the wind was wafting our way. Then I noticed a small black face peering from a hole under the sunroom and realized it wasn't a dead skunk in the distance, but a live one much closer.

And thus began a long battle waged between that most unwelcome resident and me. I tried tossing mothballs in the hole and piling used kitty litter by its entrance. I even resorted to placing a boom box on the floor of the sunroom above its tunnel and turned it to rock music played at full blast while I escaped to the furthest garden to weed. I quit the music route after an hour. Even getting rid of the skunk wasn't worth the torture to my ears.

My next ploy was to wait until it had been dark several hours; giving it time to leave on its nocturnal foraging hunt. Then I put a large cement block in front of the hole. I'd show it! The next morning a fresh hole had been dug under the sunroom nearby. But I was not to be defeated. I took pieces of old fencing and placed them on the ground butting up against the foundation anchoring them with heavy bricks. I covered all three sides of my sunroom leaving only the skunk's hole open. That night I blocked the hole. It worked, but it left a defiant calling card to let me know it wasn't happy with me.

Months later in the fall, I heard a sound almost like purring in my living room wall near the front door. Raccoon, I assumed. So I set my Have-a-Heart trap on the front porch baited with cat food. The first morning I discovered Harry Potter, my very unhappy barn cat. The next day it was a neighbor's cat. I caught nothing for several nights, and then one morning I peeked out and saw something black in the cage. A skunk. Major problem. I needed to leave for school in less than an hour. What was I to do with a trapped skunk? Extremely nervous, but not to be daunted, I put on my oldest clothes, went to the barn for a wheelbarrow and an old blanket, and came slowly around the corner of the house. I held the blanket in front of me while peeking around the edge so I wouldn't fall against the cage, and when I got close enough, I threw the blanket over the cage. With heart racing the whole time, I put the cage in the wheelbarrow and went as fast as I could with the wheelbarrow bumping up and down. Around the house, through the back yard, past the barn, through a large grassy area, I rushed. When I'd passed the pond and was close to the woods, I stopped and carefully lifted the covered cage out of the wheelbarrow and placed it on the ground. Darn! When I peeked, the door was facing  towards the house. I turned it around with heart still beating quickly and fumbled under the blanket to open it. It doesn't work as smoothly to release a skunk as it does a cat, believe me. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the critter left, not in a skunk's normal slow meandering gait, but like a race horse released from the starting gate as it headed for the woods. I was triumphant woman!

On Christmas Day the house was redolent with the smell of roast turkey, ham and other goodies. I was expecting nearly twenty people for dinner. My daughter, Susan, her husband, Mike, and my two little grandkids, Emilie and Jacob, were the first to arrive. Hugs and kisses and the little ones were squealing with excitement and telling me what Santa had brought them. It was then that my enemy exacted its revenge. From under the front porch, apparently awakened by the delicious smells, my enemy sprayed. That Christmas we had a mixture of smells competing. Eventually, although it's hard to believe, we became slightly immune to it. A few nights later while I was reading and listening to quiet music, the skunk let go again. Obviously, I couldn't put up with this any longer. My house reeked, my clothes held the odor of skunk so when I went places like to a doctor's appointment or to school, people moved away from me. Washing my clothes didn't help because the house was permeated with it.

So I located a trapper willing to come. He managed to catch several possoms and a raccoon from under the porch, but not a skunk. He surmised the skunk had been disturbed by his fellow roomies and that was why it sprayed. After several weeks, he figured the skunk had moved on so he blocked the entrance, and I wasn't bothered with the critter again. The following summer, my son saw a skunk come out of the woods in broad daylight. It was staggering and weaving. Obviously, it had something wrong with it. Maybe rabies so he shot it. It was heading for my house. I thought of the line from Robert Frost's The Death of the Hired Man. "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in." Was the skunk coming home to die? Did it believe it would be safe here? Or was it planning its final revenge?

What interesting animal experiences have you had? Pleasant or unpleasant?
                                                                                

19 comments:

E. B. Davis said...

LOL, Gloria. I'm sorry you've had such extreme experiences, but you do have to admire their tenacity.

Recently, it has come to our attention that a red fox started hanging out in our neighborhood. Our backyard has become its territory. We know the development where we live has eliminated much of their habitat, and yet, we also wonder if there is anything wrong with it, like rabies or something. A while back, there was another red fox in the neighborhood--but it had mange. I'm sure it's dead by now. Living too close to carnivores is a bit creepy.

Gloria Alden said...

My son made friends with a fox family behind the steel mill where he's an lineman. The three or four youngsters were quite friendly because he was feeding them, but the mother stayed back and just watched. He took some adorable pictures of them on his phone. I think foxes, as well as coyotes, are adjusting to their loss of habitat by learning to live with it. I saw a lecture a few years ago by a biologist, who studied coyotes in Chicago. There were something like 800 living in the city. He said they rarely harmed any pets and steered clear of people. They had night cameras following them. What they lived on mostly was rats, and that's good. I don't think you need to worry about your fox. Their main food is mice, rabbits, birds, insects and even fruit. And yes, chickens, too.

E. B. Davis said...

Good to know, Gloria. Thanks--I'll enjoy watching him.

Mary Sutton said...

Every winter, we get squirrels in the attic. Most of the time, they stay up there. But one winter, one (probably a yearling, judging by the size) came into the living room to visit. We have an old house that still has the spots in the wall from gas lighting pipes; he must have used that. Drove the dog crazy, and the kids enjoyed watching Mom & Dad chase the squirrel with a broom and an empty Eggo waffle box.

Then in 2005, my husband was in Iraq. One night, I thought I felt something walking up my leg, and thought I must be having a very vivid dream. I turned on the bedside light and looked around. There was a squirrel in my curtains. He must have been in bed with me. I chased him into the closet where I lost him. The next day I found a 2x2 hole in the wall where he must have come down and into the bedroom.

I blocked the hole with a box, but the first thing my husband did upon his return was fix the closet. In the process, we found out why he'd come in the first place. He was using an empty plastic shoe organizer to store his nuts for the winter. =)

Nancy Adams said...

Such funny stories, Gloria and Mary (funny in hindsight, of course!).

My husband spent several months one year battling a squirrel that had taken up residence in the crawl space between the first and second floors. Now, he's no longer amused when I point out their antics as they scamper up and down our trees.

My brother-in-law and his wife live out in a rural area where there was a den of foxes. Like Gloria's son, he enjoyed their presence and they never harmed any of the cats.

Sometimes we see bunnies and occasionally the neighborhood hawk, but that's mostly it for our wildlife.

Nancy Adams said...

Such funny stories, Gloria and Mary (funny in hindsight, of course!).

My husband spent several months one year battling a squirrel that had taken up residence in the crawl space between the first and second floors. Now, he's no longer amused when I point out their antics as they scamper up and down our trees.

My brother-in-law and his wife live out in a rural area where there was a den of foxes. Like Gloria's son, he enjoyed their presence and they never harmed any of the cats.

Sometimes we see bunnies and occasionally the neighborhood hawk, but that's mostly it for our wildlife.

Sue, your loving daughter said...

In the next blog, you should write about the time that I was coming over to feed the animals while you were away, and found a snake in your kitchen!! I was terrified!! I got on a chair and kept moving the chairs, while standing on them, right to the back door!!! LOL

Gloria Alden said...

Mary, I had a small red squirrel that lived between my library ceiling and bedroom floor for several years. I have an old house, too. No one could see where it was getting in, so it must have been coming up through the wall somewhere under the front porch. Then I started discovering nuts in my shoes. When I found a nut under my pillow, I decided it had to go. I set a small Have-a-Heart trap for it and that was the end of my boarder.

Gloria Alden said...

Nancy, I got rather used to the sound of my little squirrel, too. I knew it was a squirrel because it was only active in the daytime. I actually enjoy wildlife - to a point.

Gloria Alden said...

Susan, how can my daughter be so afraid of snakes? It wasn't a poisonous one. Probably the cat brought it up from my old basement.
Anyway, I never saw it again. I think the funniest part of your story, that you didn't mention, was you had Emilie and a friend of hers with you. The friend picked up one of my books to throw at it, and Emilie yelled, "No! Not one of Grandma's books." She may have added something like "She'll kill you if you hurt one of her books."

Patg said...

Well you know my tales of woe with geese in the moorage. And I certainly understand the smell thing. Floating homes always seem to have some opening in their underside, and regardless of the amount of float, critters get in, crawl up the walls and die. I can't tell you how many times I've torn out one wall of the downstairs bathroom to remove a corpse. Steelwool and metal mesh have helped greatly, but every so once in a while, an odor seeps through. We also have beaver, but no one can touch them. The Beaver State. But we have to worry about a lot of trees falling off the bank because of them and on to houses. Fortunately, they are cottonwood and nobody misses them.
Honestly, humans belong in the clouds on floating cities. :)
Patg

Warren Bull said...

In a very old house with coal fireplaces a squirrel once fell down the flu into my living room. I opened doors to the outside and walked through the house. He skittered ahead of me and eventually went out an open door, leaving sooty squirrel foot prints on the carpet.

Gloria Alden said...

Yes, Pat, I knew about the geese - terribly messy fowl. My last dog was good at chasing them off our pond. I didn't know about things crawling up in the walls and dying, though. It happens with a mouse once in awhile, but the smell usually goes away in a few days.

Gloria Alden said...

At least he didn't die up in the chimney, Warren, but I imagine sooty footprints weren't easy to clean up, either. Now if you'd had a fire burning, you could have had roast squirrel for dinner.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Gloria, you had Ben and me shuddering at your story. We also have an old house surrounded by trees.

We've had possums get into our basement, climbing down through the chimney. Got it blocked now. Every winter for the last couple of years, we've had squirrels get into the attic. So far, they've stayed up there. We can't find out how they're getting in to block it. They leave when it gets warm.

Our biggest problem is feral cats. Because there's a big vacant lot across the street, folks dump cats, often pregnant or in heat. We've trapped and fixed and tamed as many as we could manage, but they reproduce too fast for us.

I love to find wild animals in the city--just not in my house, please! But at least, so far, no skunks.

Gloria Alden said...

Linda, as much as I love old houses, they do have their downside, don't they? Hopefully, you'll never have a skunk decide to set up residence under your front porch or near your house. How did you manage to get the possums out of the basement? I have a crawl space under the kitchen part of my house, and until I had a section of the basement wall redone, I'd get chipmunks and snakes come in and take up residence under there. I always worried something larger like a rat would come in. It's the one animal I fear more than any other, but I've never had one in any house I've lived in.

I live on a state route so people don't slow down enough to drop animals off, fortunately, but I've had stray cats come occasionally. But for the last 3 or 4 years, none stay because Barny Cat, a spayed calico that showed up and stayed - she has an attitude so I've not let her be a house cat. She absolutely forbids any other cat to stay. She's a feisty one.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Gloria, we used a Hav-A-Heart trap for the last possum several years ago--though we had to drive more than 15 miles before releasing it into a park area because the local wildlife experts told us, if we didn't take it that far away, it would just come back.

The first possum was years ago. I wrote a poem about it that's on my blog. http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com/2012/04/final-poem-for-national-poetry-month.html

Like you, my great fear is a rat. *shudder* I've never had one anywhere I've ever lived, though. We do get mice coming in sometimes when the weather gets really cold outside, however. My current rescue cat, Mrs. Miniver, looks upon this as a time of bounty--all the little squeaky toys. She's a very good hunter, so they usually leave for safer territory pretty quickly.

Once many years ago, we had a snake come in. People all over KC were finding snakes (sometimes large numbers of them) inside their houses. Experts gave the reason for this, but after all this time, I can't remember what it was. Just had one small ringneck show up here, though, and I put it outside.

Georgia said...

Loved your adventure, Gloria. Our Husky met up with a couple striped kittys during the night in her pen. They must have frightened each other because now she is very cautious asking to go out in the dark. And they limit their visits to digging in the mulch outside her pen. Mutual respect, I suppose.

Gloria Alden said...

I wrote a poem about a possum once, too, Linda, but it was much darker than I imagine yours was. I'll have to go to that site and check it out. It's in the fall that I get mice, too. Moggie is the one that usually catches them while Brat Cat watches and sometimes joins in the chase.

My California daughter said a lot of snakes appeared on one of the trails she walks. She wasn't sure why so many were there when she usually never sees any. I'd be interested in why there are so many a certain time. The snake I occasionally get in the basement - or used to before the wall was fixed - are milk snakes. Quite harmless.

Georgia, did the skunk spray your husky at all? It used to be tomato juice that worked for cleaning them up, but now I think it's something else, but I forget what. I've never had to deskunk a dog, and I hope I never do.