Five Skunks Named Flower
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A True Story
My children were, in fact, raised in a barn. Through their toddler-hood, we all lived together in that barn. I should point out that this barn was not red, but a fine shade of aluminum. (Nothing was too good for my boys.) It is necessary to fully describe the logistics of the barn-home in order to explain how I came to be entrapped by five skunks named Flower.
Technically, I lived inside of a house built inside of a barn. You see, there was a house completely constructed inside of the lovely aluminum barn. The house did share some walls with the barn so there were some windows. Mostly, though, my home was made of plywood and the view was my 15 car garage. It's important to note that the home did share a wall with the barn only because that wall was where 5 skunks named Flower came to live. There was space between the fine aluminum and the fine plywood that was stuffed with pink, fluffy, cotton candy insulation. This, apparently, is an optimum den for a rouge band of adult skunks who decided to fool natural instinct and live together in harmony. It is also important to note that there was only one way to get into my home inside of my beautiful aluminum barn. It was through a very well-hung door that was the pathway from the spacious 15 car or 2 combine garage and my lovely plywood coated home.
My barn-home was in the middle of a very large pasture. On a clear day, I could see Japan from that field. There was nothing there. Nada. Nothing. Except, of course, snakes and skunks. Occasionally, a cow would wander by. When you live in a barn, that is to be expected I suppose. I assume that the lack of scenery was what prompted five skunks named Flower to come in.They needed some entertainment.
The first time I saw any of the Flowers, I knew there was something different about these skunks. I was going out to do some laundry. (The washing machine, of course, was in the barn part of my barn.) I stepped out the well-hung door with my basket of laundry and spotted him. He was black with a white stripe.(That was my first clue that he was a skunk.) I stopped, wondering whether I should turn and run, freeze, shoo it, or just keep walking to the washing machine. Options 1, 2, and 3 seemed like they would be the reasonable response. But the skunk didn't seem to mind that I was there. I had one of those Snow White moments where you decide you are in tune with nature and will soon have birds perching all over your hands while rabbits and squirrels will gather at your feet to join you in song. Somehow, it didn't occur to me that I should mind that HE was there. So, I talked to him.
Now, look, I've lived in the country for a lot of my life. I know what a skunk can do. Tomato juice baths and listening to people say "Do you smell a skunk?" every time you walk by is not a pleasant situation. But, this skunk just looked up and went back to sniffing around. I went back to doing laundry while carrying on a conversation with a skunk in my 15 car garage of my aluminum barn house.
I named him Flower.
A couple of days later, I was gazing out the window at the beautiful aluminum view. I spotted Flower. I waved out the window at him. I guess I thought he'd wave back. He didn't. But I was just as startled about what I did see. Two creatures, black with a white stripe. Now, that is interesting. Flower had a friend. Hello friend. What should I name you? Umm. Errr. Ummm. (Well, you try to think of another skunk name.) I named him Flower. This is likely where I made the mistake. They say that you shouldn't feed stray dogs because they will keep coming back and make themselves your pet. Apparently, if you name a skunk or two Flower, they think they are your pets. And they bring their friends. Freeloaders.
One night as I was laying in bed, I started to hear strange scratching noises behind me. Although you may be questioning my mental health at this point, I was pretty sure I wasn't hallucinating those sounds. I thought it might have been a mouse under my bed and I responded appropriately. As I stood in front of my empty bedframe, mattresses flung carefully, of course, across the room in a very, very neat pile, of course, vacuum cleaner wand and rubber gloves in hand, I realized that it was not a mouse. The sound was coming from the OTHER SIDE of the wall. I pressed my ear against the wall and realized that those scratches were not coming from a mouse. It was coming from something bigger. Something named. Something black with a white stripe.
I wasn't sure what to do about this. How, exactly, do you flush out skunks from the space between your wall and your barn? Is that something you learn about on the DIY network or maybe the Nature Channel. Can someone give me a how-to? I decided that since there was no offensive smell, it could wait until morning. I needed to do some research. Incidentally, since my mattresses were already on the other side of the room, I decided this was a good time to rearrange. I mean, pet skunks are one thing, but I wasn't letting them sleep on my bed.
The next day, I learned from my son's picture book that skunks live alone unless they have babies. This was, of course, where I started by research. (Picture books are very informative.) I decided that they must be having babies in there. How can I evict them now? A young, pregnant mother and a father just trying to get by. I mean, sure, maybe they were squatting, but didn't you freeload off of someone when you were just starting out? I decided that it would be cruel not to let them stay. I was sure that they would move on once the babies came. I was wrong about a lot of things during this whole encounter. This was one of those things.
A few days later, I looked out and saw my pet parents-to-be romping around in my barn-home-15-car-garage. They appeared to be having fun. Walking around, sniffing, walking some more, sniffing some more. The picture book said that that's what they like to do. Then I noticed something that caught me by surprise. All pet owners will tell you, you recognize your pet. No one can come in and take your pet rat terrier and replace it with another and expect you not to know the difference. As any skunk owner can tell you, it's the same with skunks. These two little hellions were definitely not Flower and Flower. Not yet anyway. I realized that I had two new Flowers. Just how many skunks did it take to have a baby anyway? Had I stumbled upon a group of swinging skunks that have decided to make my sweet cotton candy their very own red light district? Was it pink light district for skunks? The picture book didn't cover this. I suppose that was because it was made for children.
So now I had four Flowers and from the sounds at night, they were very busy settling into their cozy new home or well, you know. Anyway, I began to think that maybe this wasn't a nice young couple just trying to find a nice place to raise their babies. Maybe this was a camp for terrorist skunks and they were training young skunks how to spray American skunks. Maybe they were mad scientist skunks who were planning to take over the human race and they thought that hiding in pink, fluffy cotton candy was a good cover. Humans thought of pink as something innocuous. I heard that's how skunks thought of it anyway. I decided that maybe I should do something about these skunks. I thought I better move on from picture books and do some serious research. I booted up my computer and clicked on the AOL icon that I was still paying them to have. It was another time, you know, and I did live in a barn. I had paid for dial up AOL. I feared that the skunks might hear the WEEE WAAA WEEE WAAA "Welcome" and realize what I was up to. I heard some stirring and scratching. They were on to me. It was all going to come to a head. Flower, Flower, Flower and Flower had worn out their welcome. I was on to THEM. Who did they think they were? Bambi characters did not act this way!
One day, not too much later, I got ready for work. I had been busy. I did have two toddlers and a full time job, after all. I hadn't spent a lot of time on skunk removal, but had figured out that my plan. I was to get some moth balls and try to place them strategically in my wall. How I was going to this, I did not know. I considered using one of my son's robotic hands. (You know the kind where you pull the lever and the hand at the end of the stick grabs things. Mostly your friends butt or the booger from your nose.) I feared, though, that I would be trying to drop mothballs and get a handfull of black fur with a white stripe. I wasn't sure what I was going to do. Anyway, the Flowers and I were living peacefully as neighbors and I had other things on my mind. The Flowers could wait. Little did I know, they were hatching a plan of their own.
After dressing for work, I opened the well-hung door that led out to my garage. I had one toddler in hand and another at foot. It was about 5:00am and still dark out. I flipped on the overhead lights to my 15 car garage.
There they were. My four Flowers. Wait. No. My FIVE Flowers. What? FIVE? I ran back into the house dragging two very confused little boys along with me. I shut the door and locked it. (I guess I thought that skunks could open doors now. They were, after all, a band of terrorist ninja skunks.) I had to recount to be sure that there were five Flowers. You see, it was hard to count them because they had assumed a circular position and were running wildly in a tight formation around my car. Over and over and over again, they ran. They were running their little hearts out. What the hell? The picture book didn't say anything about skunks liking 1997 Chevrolet Camaros. It said nothing about rituals or ring around the rosy or anything of the sort.
I had no idea what to do. What do you do when there are five skunks (that you thought were your friends) holding your car hostage in some bizarre, terrorist, mad-scientist, swinger ninja skunk ritual? I told the boys, who thought this was all very entertaining, to stay away from the door. That, of course, prompted them to gather around the door and try as hard as they could to open it. I flung myself at the door and said "NOOOOOO!"
I grabbed the phone. At the time, I was in my very early 20s and I guess I thought that the only people who had been alive long enough to know how to deal with a skunk encounter of the third kind were my parents. I dialed. My mother answered the phone. I screamed into the phone "There are a pack of SKUNKS circling my CAR and I'm TRAPPED inside my house! WHAT DO I DO?" My mother, in a very sleepy voice, said, "It's too early. Call your father." Ok. If someone called you and said that very same sentence in that very same voice, what would your reaction be? She hung up on me. MY OWN MOTHER. It was too early? TOO EARLY? She just HUNG UP on me! I was having a CRISIS here.
I looked out into my 15 car garage-barn. It had been a good 10 minutes since this all began and they were still out there. STILL running circles around my car. What WAS this? I didn't have a choice. I had to call in to work and let them know I was going to be late. As I've said, I was in my early 20s. I hadn't had this job very long. I didn't know these people very well. I dialed the phone. I explained, "Umm. I'm going to be late because, umm, there are five skunks running in circles around my car in the garage." Now, my supervisor must have thought this was either the best or the worst excuse they had ever heard. "Yeah... umm...I don't know when I'll be able to come in. They just keep running around it. I'm.. umm.. kind of trapped." I heard laughing on the other end of the phone. Bon-a-fide laughter. They hung up on me. Why did everyone keep hanging up on me? Didn't they realize that I was in CRISIS. I was being taken over by an evil skunk army! They had me surrounded. Then again, what would you do if your employee, in her early 20s, pretty new at the job, called you and told you that she couldn't come to work because she was entrapped by a band of rowdy ninja, terrorist, swinging, pink-light district, freeloading, mad scientist skunks?
They were still out there. Didn't skunks get tired? Apparently, they did. At some point, they had stopped running and were just standing, still in formation, in a circle around my car. I want you to take a moment to think about this. Really think about this. I was standing at my well-hung door looking out into my garage at five full-grown skunks, black with a white stripe, standing strategically around my car so that I could not leave. Skunks roam and walk and sniff and walk and sniff. This has been addressed already. They did not run around cars or stand still in formation.Put yourself in my shoes for just a moment.
I called my father. My father is the type who will think carefully about something before giving you the answer. The answer is usually, "Well, I don't know." His answer was, after careful thought, "Well, I don't know." He then gave me a list of suggestions. These suggestions were all given in a casual manner as though he were explaining to me how to change the lightbulb in my oven. Did NO ONE understand what was happening here?
I started to try them. He suggested that I, first, open my garage door. Novel concept, huh? Well, see if you have any common sense when this happens to you! Don't judge, just read on. I opened my garage door. This did not help. The noise stirred them into action again and they started running frantically in a circle again. I gathered all of my courage, told my boys to stand back, and opened the well-hung door and said "Shoo!" They all stopped and turned toward me. So much for Snow White, I ran back into the house and locked the door again.
Plan 2: I went to the window that faced the outside of the house and dropped some meat from the refrigerator there. I didn't really know what skunks ate and I wasn't really sure if they had a great sense of smell, but I thought this would lure them out. I consulted the picture book. I had wasted my bologna. They ate rats and lizards with their salad. Where was that bed mouse when I needed him?
Plan 3: My father suggested that I get a pot and spoon and make very loud noises. There were two ways of looking at this suggestion. It would either work or I would be taking the longest tomato bath in history. I looked out into my skunk infested garage and decided that tomato baths weren't so bad. I grabbed a pan and a spoon and went to the well-hung door. I sent the boys into their room. They didn't need to see this.
It took me some time. My heart was pounding. I could already hear the "Do you smell a skunk?'s" and feel the burning sensation in my eyes. I thought for a second and then ran back into my boy's bedroom. I found them huddled around their own windows giggling and pointing at the Flowers. The Flowers appeared unaware and kept going, at a little slower pace now, but still going. These guys would give the Energizer bunny a run for his money. Can you imagine, the Energizer skunks? They could change the look of the battery be black with white stripe. I handed my oldest son, about 3 at the time, the phone. I explained very carefully to him how to call 911. After the tutorial, I looked him dead in the eye and said very seriously, "If I don't come back, dial." He, very seriously, said "Dial what?" I was doomed.
I went back to the door. I opened it slowly, only enough to get the pot and spoon and the smallest amount of my hands and arms as possible out the door. I closed my eyes and pulled the trigger. BANG! BANG! BANG!
There was chaos! The boys started cheering in the other room. The skunks started running around in a crazy frenzy all over the garage. I dropped the pot and the spoon and slammed the door (and locked it). Did it work? Not yet, but I shook them up a bit. I assume this is how soldiers feel during war time. I was suddenly full of courage and felt the small victory. I threw the door open and grabbed the pot and spoon. I started banging with all my might. This is MY barn, Flowers! You can't have it!
About the time I realized what I was doing, I dropped the pan and spoon again and ran for cover. What the hell was I thinking? But, it was working. The skunks were running. But.
They were running straight home. Their home, of course, being the fluffy, pink, cotton candy of my bedroom/barn wall. But, they were gone. Retreated. Regrouping. I grabbed the kids as fast as I could and ran for the car. We all piled in and screeched out of there. I left, shaken up, but smelling fine.
This is where I chose is it best to end this story. You may be wondering what ever happened after that. Did the skunks run me out of my beautiful aluminum home? Did I figure out a way to make mothballs go through solid walls? Did we live happily ever after and sing Disney songs together? Did I take a .44 revolver and eradicate the problem inside my own garage, one by one, each one stinking worse than the next, "Do you smell a skunk?'s" and 12 tomato baths be damned. I'll let you decide. I will tell you that my children still leave the door open and I have nothing to say. They were, in fact, raised in a barn.
Like this story? Stay tuned, more skunk and other assorted wildlife stories to come.All true. All as strange as this one. Truth is, after all, stranger than fiction.
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