On the farm I grew up on as a foster kid, I usually had some time to myself on Sunday afternoons between lunch and milking. I often used this time to explore the meadows, woods and streams. It was a beautiful farm nestled in a small valley surrounded by forested hills so nature abounded there. Being the only youngster there my romps were solitary, unless I took the farm dog, Skippy along. He was a great pal, my best friend for a lot of years. Never knew his breed but Skippy was at least half collie.
One beautiful early spring Sunday when I was about 12, Skippy and I set out for what we called the far meadow. It was one of my favorite places way at the North end of the farm, at least a half hour's walk from the house. Some folks might call it a glade. The cows kept the grass short, and there was never many weeds there so it looked like a well manicured lawn with a sleepy narrow stream meandering through it and shaded by about 20 ancient hickory trees. This truly was a magical, peaceful place, and thinking back I suppose the magic touched me there as I can remember several childhood adventures taking place under those hickories by the stream.
As this particular adventure starts I'm laying on my back taking in the sun, Skippy snuggled beside me. From where we lay we had a view across the stream, out over the meadow with the woods far off as a backdrop. I think I was telling Skippy a story when he started to bark. Following his stare I saw something, an animal of some sort, waddling down the hill toward the stream. It looked funny because it was bouncing and rolling all over the place.
The cows had wandered way up to the woods so it was just Skippy and me watching this silly animal. I coaxed Skippy to come along to investigate. He was a good guard dog, from a distance. Always ready to bark, but always keeping plenty of room between him and whatever danger threatened. He stayed behind me as we advanced. The closer we got, the sillier the animal looked flipping, rolling and waddling.
Soon I realized it wasn't one animal, but two! Two skunks were scampering along climbing all over each other in some kind of spring frolic. They were having the time of their life, and so involved were they, they never noticed Skippy and me. They would waddle a few strides then one would climb atop the other and they'd commence rolling down the hill a few feet. Then the other would climb on top. I think they were young skunks perhaps on their first spring adventure.
I was able to get right up on them, they paid no attention to me as they frolicked. I remember Skippy, who was a wise dog, stayed well behind me and had stopped barking. I stood right over them intrigued by their silliness, and anyone who has ever seen a skunk up close knows they have adorable faces. And the tiniest feet.
It was about that time I remembered being told that skunks can't spray you if you grab them by the tail and hoist them up. They must have heard me thinking that because right at that second, they stopped fooling around and looked up at me. Both of them.
Without hesitation I decided to test that tail snatching theory and I grabbed the littlest skunk. An adorable almost black little fellow. He twisted around to look me in the eye.
Then it happened! I don't really remember the next few seconds, but as the spray hit me full in the chest I understood pretty quickly that not all advice is accurate … And that skunk tail tale is not true! Not only can they spray while you hold their tail, they can spray, twice. You see I was so surprised I held onto that squirming little black ball of fur longer than a boy should. It was Skippy barking and howling that finally jerked me back to my senses and I dropped the little fellow, who calmly walked away, right back to his friend.
My eyes started to burn and the trek back to the house was a blurry one. I stumbled along, Skippy dancing and barking all the way. Maggie, the woman who raised me, could smell me before I even got to the porch and she hollered out the front door for me to shed my clothes and sit in the water trough for a while before coming in. We didn't have plumbing or electric in the house, so the best I could do was wash up in the trough and at the wash basin. Skippy kept barking all the while, rubbing it in.
There was lots of teasing at supper and milking time that night. Ol' Bill, Maggie's husband, said he'd have never told me that if he'd thought I'd test it. But they way he laughed every time he told the story for the next ten years, I think it went just the way he planned. I did get to skip school for a week, they said I smelled too skunky.