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By Staff | Jul 10, 2009

Like so many major calamities, it all began with a seemingly minor incident.

Specifically, one of my old hens went missing. This was troubling, as hens who are old enough to join AARP, the Amalgamated Association of Retired Pullets, generally don’t up and fly the coop.

But it was just one hen out of eight. Then another hen disappeared. Then another. Something was poaching my poultry!

So I got one of those “live catch” traps, baited it with rancid hamburger and set it near the chicken coop. The next morning, the trap contained a very large and very wild gray tomcat. Success!

The cat was taken several miles away and released in a wild area. After all, it was a wildcat.

I reset the trap by the coop more or less on a lark. My problem had been solved so there was no expectation of catching anything else.

Later that day I was walking into the coop and happened to glance at the trap. I couldn’t believe it! I had caught another cat!

But this cat was different. It was black and quite fluffy and had its hinder pressed up against the end of the cage. I was just about to pick up the trap when I noticed the twin white stripes on the cat’s back.

Who knew I could move so fast? What a close call! I had been only a foot away from the business end of a skunk who was locked and loaded and had me dead in his sights. It gives me the bejeebers just to think of it.

Another chicken thief had been caught, but I now had a new problem: how do you remove a live skunk from a live catch trap without being sprayed?

The almighty oracle, Google, advised that this could be accomplished by deploying a tarp. Supposedly, all you have to do is approach the trapped skunk as you hold up a tarp to protect yourself and deny the little stinker a clear shot.

The tarp is gently placed over the cage and the skunk is carried out to the wilderness. The trap is opened and the grateful skunk waddles off as sweet little songbirds drape you with flower necklaces.

That’s the theory, anyway. Reality is a whole ‘nother thing.

I approached the caged skunk slowly, making my presence known by speaking in a low voice. “Hey there, Mr. Skunky,” I murmured repeatedly as I cowered behind my tarp.

Mr. Skunky promptly proved that Google is full of hooey, letting fly a warning shot when I got to within about 10 feet. He didn’t target me; I think he was simply making a strong statement.

There’s nothing worse than skunk stink at very close range. The odor melted the galvanizing off the chicken coop roof and stripped the bark from nearby trees. My nose hairs disintegrated into tiny puffs of smoke.

Of course the wind was blowing in a direction that took the stink straight to our house. When my wife came home from work that evening she wrinkled up her nose and said, “I thought we were clear on this. What part of ‘no more lutefisk’ do you not understand?”

For once I was innocent and possessed proof of the fact. My wife, however, decided she didn’t need to see said proof up close or in person.

We became prisoners in our own home, trapped by a palpable wall of atomic-strength stink.

We know a guy named Lee who is an outdoorsman and former professional trapper. I asked Lee, who looks a lot like Teddy Roosevelt, how one removes a live skunk from a live trap without causing a stink.

“You’re asking the wrong guy,” he replied. “Back when I was a trapper, there was nothing better than being sprayed by a skunk. Nothing hides human odor like skunk spray.”

Didn’t wearing “eau de skunk” cologne have a negative effect on his lady friend situation?

“That was never much of a problem,” came the wry reply from the life-long bachelor.

We’d soon had enough of our imprisonment, so I decided to introduce Mr. Skunky to Mr. Remington. It was a clean kill, a single bullet to the brain. Mr. Skunky’s retaliation was terrible and swift.

I pulled the trigger and was instantly knocked flat by a shockwave of stench. Car alarms went off for miles around and the folks on the International Space Station reported seeing a mushroom cloud of stink boiling up from our farm.

Mr. Skunky is gone, but not forgotten. You might say that his presence continues to linger.

One good thing came from his visit, though. Thanks to Mr. Skunky, I was able to sneak several pounds of lutefisk into the house without my wife so much as saying, “phew.”

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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