I have lived in rural wooded areas, on wide open plains and near downtowns in major cities. Each landscape has its pluses and minuses.
Currently I live in the suburbs. Ironically, the wildlife here has been more annoying than anywhere else I’ve resided. The problem is skunks. They seem to be everywhere, including my backyard.
If they aren’t already in the garden, they are trying to get in. Along the bottom of the fence that surrounds our house I’ve filled gaps with concrete blocks, hardware wire and metal stakes to keep the skunks out. It doesn’t seem to matter how many blockades I put up. There always seems to be a weak spot.
It is a cycle. The skunks get in, the dogs tackle them, the washing and grooming of the dogs commence and more blockades go up around the fence. Then it starts again. But finally, I thought I had it licked. Wrong.
Several days ago, as I was digging a little more dirt out of our flower garden, I was congratulating myself. I was thinking that it had been a considerable amount of time since a skunk had entered the premises. “I have finally made this place skunk-proof,” I thought.
Although we still frequently smelled skunk, none had come into our yard. The dogs also regularly alerted us to skunks in the area but they hadn’t claimed one in several weeks. Their record catch appeared to be 15 and, I figured, the last. “Great.” Not so fast, George.
That very night, about 9:15, the dogs again demonstrated a high level of interest outside the house. They already had been out several times during the evening, usually after a similar alert. It was an apparent false alarm.
Before I let the dogs out, just in case an odiferous critter was in our yard, I used my normal precautionary routine of hustling around the yard clapping my hands and hooting like a deranged fool. Once I was assured there were no skunks in the area I let the dogs outside, giving them my normal monitoring oversight.
Our two four-legged woof-woofs stayed true to form. As usual, the brown-and-white one ran from corner to corner to make sure that no unwelcome black-with-a-white-stripe rodent was in the area.
The white dog with the brown tail tip followed the routine she adopted after she was kidnapped a few months ago, only to escape her captor who must have attempted to contain her 10 miles from our house. She quickly ran to the side limits of her 20-foot-wide “protected area.”
That’s it. That is as far away from the back door she will go in defense of the homeland. Before her kidnapping, she was a free spirit, apt to leave the region by any crevice. She is, however, apparently perfectly willing to tackle any enemy as long as it comes within 10 feet of the back door. Once again, no skunk, though its aromatic notice was heavy on the evening’s light breeze.
I called the dogs back and in they came, quietly.
About 11 p.m. that same evening, when even skunks should be hitting the mattress (or the sewer, where one neighbor thinks they reside), another aromatic alert got the dogs humming … and barking. Only the one that is white with a brown tail tip grumble-hums. Humming or barking, they were raising a ruckus.
Once more into the breach I charged. No ineffective skunk-washing was in my plans for the evening (tomato juice doesn’t work, by the way), so I clapped, cheered, awoke the neighbors with my braying, and, falsely satisfied there was no skunk in the backyard, turned to release the dogs for a final exercise in, I hoped, futility.
But I decided not to let dogs outside until I did one more visual scan of the perimeter. That’s when I spotted it: the evil beady-eyed annoying little varmint. I have no idea where it came from. Happily, I have no idea what happened to it either.
We escaped the damage. The skunk escaped the backyard.
So much for a skunk-proof backyard. Obviously, skunks are smarter than I am. Lately I’ve been thinking about a moat. I wonder if skunks swim.
Hawkins is retired after 35 years as a construction industry association manager. He was broadcast reporter and news anchor in Denver. As a Navy officer, he saw action in Vietnam in the River Assault Squadrons and is the recipient of a Silver Star and Purple Heart.