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What the Skunk Did

Monday, February 6, 2006

Stinky, prospecting for stew beef

It snowed during the night, and we awoke to a white world, just enough to smooth over the patches and make everything clean again. I looked out to check the bird feeders and saw that a skunk had meandered through the yard. Maybe it's the one who anointed Chet about a month ago. I knew it was a skunk even from inside, because nobody can meander like a skunk. Possums meander, but skunks d0 loops within loops. I was reminded of those tiresome "Family Circus" cartoons that show where Billy went after Mommy asked him to fetch the salt. But this was anything but tiresome; it was high mustelid art.
A closer look revealed the plantigrade tracks of the skunk; they walk not on their toes, like dogs and cats, but on their toes and heels, like bears. With their wide wheel base, skunks make a double line of tracks.
I absolutely adore skunks, although my enthusiasm for living with them has waned a bit since Chet's encounter with this fellow. Before Chet, there was one in our yard the kids named Snowy (I called him Stinky), whom I used to feed. Stinky was cool. He knew I was cool. I could go outside, speak to him, and lay a piece of meat a few feet from his nose without getting sprayed. He'd trundle over and eat it happily. He chewed with his mouth open, but that was OK with me.

Stinky wore his odor like a plume in his hat, and took it with him wherever he went. I could tell when he was around just by sniffing the air. I loved Stinky, loved having a relationship with a skunk. He was a very decorative little guy, too, almost all ivory-yellow-orange (I wouldn't call him white). I think I saw him crossing our county road the other night. I suppose there are other white-blanketed skunks around, but I hope it was Stinky. For all I know, it was Stinky who perfumed Chet Baker. I haven't seen this skunk; I've only experienced his art.
I climbed the tower to take pictures of the skunk's work, and took in the view.
that's our roof in the lower left corner.

We don't go up in the tower too much when it's this cold. Surprising how much colder it feels 42 feet up! While I was up there, I noticed that most of the birds in the yard were looking at me, expectantly, it seemed, and I remembered that I had not yet put out the suet dough. I hurried down to comply. The juncos massed and huddled in the shrubs right by the door, out of sight, they thought. Here's one perched on the dried vines of the pink mandevilla that climbs up the side of the house every summer. Look how the vine disappears into his plumage.
I'm going to use that in a painting one day. I decided to test the juncos' courage by tossing a bit of suet dough right beneath them. One brave junco came down to eat only a couple of yards away, and he was quickly joined by others.
Lovely little birds. Their calls sound like skates on ice. I like having relationships with juncos, too. I'll let you know when I get a look at the skunk artist. Perhaps our yard skunk, be he Stinky or not, will work to build a better relationship with Chet Baker.


Skunks are intriguing, aren't they? We are quite sure we had a family of them under our house this winter and spring and I was so disappointed that I never got to see any youngsters before they moved out! Julie, this reminds me of another great book. We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich. Maybe you've read it? They had a pet skunk! Happy trails.

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