I hit the brakes and swerved off the road because a gas station, long out of business, left a sign proclaiming its ancient gas prices. There should be a law against leaving those signs standing. I’m sure the police had grown weary of responding to rear-end collisions in that spot. I parked and got out of my car, hoping to use the stop to stretch my legs.
The odor was powerful. It lingered in the air like men’s body spray. There are worse smells, but I didn’t inhale deeply of the skunk aroma filling the gas station’s parking lot.
It’s frightening to some people, but not as scary as that drawer in your home that everyone is afraid to open. To others, it’s a welcome bouquet of spring; to most, a skunk is like an offensive tackle in the NFL. It covers a lot of ground by standing in one place.
A few days later, I moved serpentine through the raindrops on my walk to a meeting. The smell of skunk was strong, but it was suffering I found easily done in silence. A fellow walker wore a contorted face to spar with that fragrance and added words of mild damnation.
It’s become difficult to discern who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. I think skunks are good guys, but my relationship with skunks is complicated. I like Flower and Pepe Le Pew. Neither made my eyes water. Other skunks have targeted me.
I crawled under a truck and came face-to-face with a skunk. It was an awkward moment. I asked if I could make it a sandwich. It probably thought I’d enjoy a skunk sandwich. It didn’t know how to behave in a crowd and fired. That earned me an embarrassing bath in a tomato juice-filled claw-legged bathtub. It didn’t help. I smelled like a skunk that had been swimming in Tomato Juice Lake.
A friend live-trapped a skunk that had been bothering his honey bees. A skunk scratches at the entrance of a hive and when the bees come to investigate, the skunk enjoys a sweet treat. I rode in like the horseless cavalry to be of minimum help. He had wrapped the trap with one of his mother’s rugs to keep the skunk calm. He called the animal a polecat in homage to his hero, the cartoon character Yosemite Sam, who was self-described as “The meanest, roughest, toughest, he-man hombre that’s ever crossed the Rio Grande and I ain’t no namby-pamby.” The trap dropped from the wannabe Yosemite Sam’s hands and the skunk tumbled out. It sprayed and it was hard to blame it. There was enough spray for both of us.
I was sprayed while getting a skunk out of an outhouse. The animal was incensed because the biffy had run out of toilet paper. I should have gotten a certificate of participation for that task.
Several times, when going for a run on a dark night, my faithful canine companion had a less than cordial encounter with a skunk and generously shared the results with me.
A neighbor kid wanted to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a skunk hit by a car. I saved him from saving a dead skunk, but became stinky in the process. Another engagement with a skunk occurred in a shed holding trash temporarily. I wanted the skunk out and the skunk didn’t want to go.
I’ve found great horned owl nests because they smelled like skunks. Why did they smell that way? It’s because that owl considers a skunk to be better than pepperoni pizza. It’s a diet that would be hard to stick to.
Skunks don’t go out of their way to spray. It’s not their answer to everything. I might not have always heeded their warnings. How many times have I been sprayed by a skunk? I don’t know because I’ve lived my life without a skunk-spray calculator. It’s been often enough that I’m able to smell a skunk just by thinking of it, which makes scents to me.
After one odoriferous encounter, my sister asked how many times I needed to be sprayed by a skunk before I’d learn?
I didn’t know.
I still don’t know.