Editor’s note: There was so much reader response to our recent story from J. L. Strickland, we share another. It is especially appropriate at this season when joy and mirth should abound. If this doesn’t bring a chuckle, check your pulse.
“Back in the fifties, as I walked home from the mill-village junior high, our dear sweet neighbor, Mrs. Lois Hicks, standing by her gate, asked desperately if I would please help her for a minute?
This distraught middle-age lady, voice shaking with concern, said there was a “kitty” in her trash can and she couldn’t get it out. She was really agitated with worry, twitching and shaking.
“Would I help her?” You’d better believe I would help her. Being a dedicated, gung-ho Boy Scout, always on the lookout for a good deed to do, I almost knocked down the slow-moving Miss Lois as I hurried inside their fence to the trash can.
Back then, we didn’t have local trash pickup; and most everybody burned their garbage in a back-yard oil drum. The Hicks’ trash can had seen considerable use and the bottom of the can was rusted away, leaving a hole wide enough for an animal to crawl through.
I could see something scurrying around under the trash, but couldn’t get a good look at it, so I tilted the can a tad. The critter still hid from me. Trying another tactic, I pulled some of the garbage out to get a better look, with no results. After finally lowering the rusty can to the ground, I crawled inside a little ways.
This was the first day of school after the Christmas holidays, and I was proudly wearing the new Levi’s jacket and jeans that Santa Claus had brought me. I thought I was a really cool dude in that new denim outfit. It came all the way from Mansour’s in Lagrange. The only place you could buy husky boys’ clothing. And I was a real chunk.
Part way inside the can now, as I pulled some crumpled newspapers away that were blocking my view, I saw the “kitty.” To my absolute, heart-stopping horror, I realized the feline intruder wasn’t a “kitty” at all. Far from it—there, just inches from my terror-stricken chubby face, in all its furry, white-striped, nightmarish glory, bristled a riled-up “SKUNK!”
A skunk that immediately assumed a defensive posture, quickly aimed its lethal rear end in my direction, and sprayed into my face a full noxious blast of reeking skunk scent; instantly blinding me, and soaking my new Levi’s clothes. (I had a similar experience on a blind date once, but that is another story.)
Sweet Lord, just the vile memory still takes my breath away — the skunk, not the blind date.
When I stumbled into our back yard, my mother, just home from her mill job, and my grandmother were taking clothes off the outside line. They wouldn’t have been any more startled if the Frankenstein’s Monster had lumbered into our yard.
They smelled me before they saw me. I could barely see because my blood-red eyes were swollen shut. I staggered like a drunk, dizzy from lack of oxygen because I was holding my breath. My faithful Collie dog, Zero, ran up to greet me, but stopped short and started snarling and snapping in my direction. Zero, my bestest buddy for a decade, didn’t want me near him.
They made me strip off in the car barn, refusing to let me go inside the house emanating skunk fumes. My grandmother, a living fount of countrywoman lore, got a can of tomato juice and told me to wash off with it; it didn’t help much.
As a remedy for skunk spray, tomato juice is like spitting on a roaring forest fire.
Then, stripping me to my shorts, they tried to wash me off with our raggedy old hose pipe; but the water was frozen in the hose because it lay coiled in the shade of the house. This was well before global warming. The temperature hovered in the low thirties when I got home, well before dark.
Finally, my grandmother got some kerosene and mixed it with a bucket of warm water and I scrubbed myself in the car barn. It helped a little, but very little. I still smelled greatly like a polecat. I had turned a mottled blue by the time I finally made it into the house, still wearing only my shorts, and climbed into our big clawfoot bathtub filled with scalding hot water.
They dumped every cleaning product we had into the water, and the smell finally dissipated, somewhat. Either that, or my olfactory apparatus had shut down in failure. However, I could still get a whiff of eau de polecat for weeks. My skin blistered and peeled off like I had been sunburned.
I was back in my worn-out J.C. Penny Foremost jeans the next day. My treasured Levi’s outfit was lost forever. They didn’t burn my clothes. They dug a hole at the edge of the yard and buried them.
You could smell skunk where I pulled the Levi’s off in the car barn well past Groundhog Day. Zero, who usually slept in the car barn, started sleeping under the house.
If there was ever a case of overkill, it would have to be skunk spray. It could be a thousand times weaker and still get the point across.
I think the Pentagon is missing a bet by not synthesizing skunk spray to use as a military weapon. There is not a human alive who can stand up to that devilish concoction. A few well-placed skunk bombs dropped into the Middle East would bring Isis and the Taliban crawling out of their hideouts with their hands in the air, pleading for mercy.
A strategically detonated skunk missile would make even a Republican support health care reform and a tax-increase on millionaires.
They don’t have to pay me for this suggestion. I offer it in the spirit of patriotism. The sacrifice of my beloved new Levi’s should not have been in vain.”