The Rabid Skunk: An Unwanted Pet Story
The Day the Skunk got Blasted.
Living in the Sulphur River bottoms, you'd think a person would get used to the wild animals that wander up from time to time. But nothing prepared me for the day the rabid skunk appeared in my yard, wandering aimlessly, falling on it's side and going in circles. What really takes the taco on this story is how the whole incident was handled. To my incredulous disbelief, the lack of knowledge about how to handle situations like this blew my mind. Let's just say, my reaction was no less than blowing a fuse. Thus begins my tale of the day the skunk got blasted.
Southwest Arkansas Summer
The previous day, the heat index had reached 103 in the afternoon (enough to melt butter). I'd worked a long night and was sleeping-in that day. I got up about noon to check the mail and was walking casually down the long driveway, sifting through the stack of bills I received, when, lo and behold, a skunk saunters across my yard behaving erratically. It was headed straight for my long ranch-style front porch across the front of the house. As I neared the porch, I realized there was a problem. The pole-cat (Arkansas term for skunk) was obviously in distress. He couldn't walk straight and he was going way too slow. Here he was, in broad daylight, walking around like a drunk monkey. I freaked out, ran into the house and looked for the 22 rifle. Heck, what was I thinking? I couldn't hit that skunk and I knew it. So I headed out the back door and walked cautiously to our renter's house several yards away, keeping a wary eye on the skunk the whole time.
Killing the Skunk
I banged on David's door and yelled, "Hey David, have you gotta gun?" He appeared in the doorway and gazed to where I was pointing. "Uh-oh", he said. He disappeared, momentarily, while I ran back to my house to watch from the window. For an instant, I thought about the scene in "To Kill A Mockingbird" when Atticus Finch shot the rabid dog in the street. Only this was a mad skunk. It wasn't hard to get a good aim on the creature. He was slow and staggering. David held the rifle up and pulled the trigger. BAM! It fell dead. I emerged from the house and walked over to inspect the kill. Yep, it was dead as a door-nail, all right. I halfway expected to see foaming saliva coming from it's mouth, but was disappointed to find none. The weird thing about it is that there was no smell. Now, when you shoot a skunk, they always spray. But not this one. He musta' been one sick polecat! I left it laying there until I could contact animal control to come and get it. Boy, oh boy, was I in for a surprise.
Calls of Despair.
When I finally found the phone number for Animal Control, I was getting pretty frustrated. I explained the situation to the guy on the phone.
He said, "Ma'am, you don't live in the city limits (duh), we can't come out there".
I replied, "Okay, so what the heck am I supposed to do with a dead rabid skunk in my yard?"
He told me to call the County Health Department. So, here I go again, searching for another number that was impossible to find. The first person who answered the phone was a woman who sounded totally not interested. I gave her the story and she told me I would have to talk to So & So in the Whatever department and they were at lunch. I'd have to call back. Sure, I'll call back and I still have a dead rabid skunk in my yard with the temperature slowly rising. Good grief! I waited an hour, then called back. I reached So & So in the Whatever department, who told me I needed to talk to Whoever in the Whachamacallit department. In the meantime, I'm getting really irritated by the brush-off.
I ask, "What's the safety plan in this county for this problem?"
So & So couldn't give me an answer, but didn't mind telling me that Whoever in the Whachamacallit department was out for the day and wouldn't be back till Monday.
Here it was, Friday afternoon, with the temperature still rising and the dead rabid skunk still laying in my yard.
I told her "Look, I've gotta' dead skunk in my yard with a deadly disease and I need somebody there to tell me what to do with it!"
So she takes my phone number and says she'll try to locate Whoever and will call me back.
Anger Sets In.
By this time I'm getting really ticked off. I was trying hard not to throw a tantrum, but was real close.
Then I thought, "Ah-hah! I'll call the sheriff's department!" So, I called the non-emergency number for the sheriff's office. Nope, they couldn't help me either.
"You mean you can't send a deputy out to get this thing?" I was trying not to yell, but my adrenaline was pumping fast.
"No ma'am, you'll have to wait for the Health Department to call you back". Great! I literally slammed the phone down and began pacing back and forth, rage mounting.
How could a county be so stupid! Just because it's Friday afternoon and everybody wants to get off work and go home for the weekend doesn't mean a dead rabid skunk is not important! Somebody tell me what to do, for crying out loud! Finally, about 4:30 in the afternoon (temperature 100) Ms. Whoever finally calls me back. Thank God! I explained the whole story to her just like I'd done half a dozen times already that day.
In a calm voice, she told me, "Okay, being that it's Friday afternoon and the remains must be sent by special carrier, you'll have to wait til Monday before I can come out there and get it...."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "Monday?", I asked weakly. "But it'll be rotted by then....."
"Right", she affirmed. Then "....what I need you to do is cut the head off the skunk and wrap it in plastic. Place it in a container and store in the refrigerator until I come out there Monday morning to get it".
I sat in shocked silence. She wanted me to cut the dang head off the dead rabid skunk and put it in my refrigerator. "You gotta be kidding, right?" I asked.
She replied, "No, I'm not. It's the weekend and this is the only solution".
It may be the only solution for her, but I was getting desperate by this time. No, I didn't want to cut it's head off, I'd puke. I finally ended the call and stood in stunned silence with the realization nobody was coming to get the skunk carcass today and I was gonna' have to store it in my refrigerator.
Begging for Help.
By this time, I was frantic. I had to get the skunk head cut off immediately and I didn't have the guts to do it. My spouse came home and I retold the story once more. He gave no reaction other than "I don't want it in the refrigerator..."
Oh, that's great, now what am I gonna do? The Health Department told me, specifically, NOT to freeze it or wait too long to store the head.
I begged, "Please, will you cut the head off?..It grosses me out too bad..."
Spousey' wasn't gonna' do it. He was totally non-concerned. It was still in the front yard collecting flies. I got really mad then and said, "Fine then! I'll do it myself! Doesn't anyone around here realize the seriousness of this?"
I was raging when I stomped to the tool shed and grabbed the famous "snake killer" tool, a garden hoe with the blade pointed straight. All I had to do now was gain the nerve to whack it's head off. Not so easy as it sounds......
I drug the snake killer to the skunk, laying there like a limp noodle. I looked at the repulsive animal and wondered how it got rabies or if it even HAD rabies. What did I care? Heck, I felt it was my civic duty to take care of the matter since nobody else seemed concerned. What was wrong with people here, anyway? Then I started obsessing about how "backward" everyone was, how stupid the county is, and how I had to work that whole weekend and still take care of the dead rabid skunk! So I raised the hoe as high as I could and slammed it down as hard as I could on the skunk carcass's neck. A resounding thud, but no luck. It didn't even break the skin.
Great, now I felt vomit building up in my throat, sweat was running down my back and my head was pounding! I whammed the hoe down again and it was ineffective. Darnit! What's it gonna take? I tried sawing it back and forth while attempting to hold back from regurgitating projectiles across the yard. Oh, it was disgusting! I gave it up, drug the hoe back to the shed, and walked back into the house. Forget it. Forget my civic duty. I couldn't cut the head off. I'm not using a knife. I was through with it! Let it infect the whole county for all I cared!
The next day, I walked into the yard and saw that the dead rabid skunk was too far gone to be able to send it's wretched head off to another city. Good, I'll bury it and be done with it. I found a low spot in the yard and dug down as far as I could go, being that it was so hot and the ground was dry as the desert. I could barely get the shovel in the ground, but I used all my suppressed rage and attacked it with a frenzy. I managed to dig a hole about 2 feet deep. I thought, "That's good enough! Let's hope a dog or coyote doesn't come along and dig it up, now." So I scooped up the skunk with my trusty shovel and dumped it into it's final resting place, covered it with dirt and packed it down well. That was it, I was finally through. Thank goodness!
Early Monday morning, while I was still sleeping from an extremely long and difficult weekend of crisis work, the doorbell awoke me at 8:30 AM. Wonderful, now what? I opened the door and, wonder of wonders, there stood Ms. Whoever from the County Health Department with a big box marked 'CAUTION..possible rabies infection'.
I asked, "So you're here to get the skunk?"
She smiled professionally and said, "Yes, we'll send it off today". I was groggy and silent.
I replied, "Well, if you want it, it's 2 feet underground...I buried it Saturday." She raised her eyebrows in surprise while I explained my dilemma.
"No problem", she said, "sorry about everything."
As I watched her drive away, I thought to myself, "Now that was a stinking good lesson learned". And to this day I'll never know if the the dead rabid skunk was, in fact, rabid.