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June 26, 2008


One unhappy skunk

A fox ate Jennifer’s cat the other night and I wanted to see if I could catch him so I threw some pork shoulder bones into a live animal trap and set it out back. I put the trap next to a pine tree out back, about 10 yard from the redwood deck and left it.

I checked it every day or so, but it wasn’t catching anything. I think the fox is too smart to fall for something that obvious. I began to doubt that I’d catch a fox, but I left it out there to see if I’d catch anything at all.

My house has recently become ground zero for a savage Corvidae war between the Crows and the Ravens. I don’t know what led to the contest over my property. Perhaps they’re battling for position for the when the bluebirds and chickadees fledge. They do eat baby birds, of course. But this is all just idle speculation.

I set the trap and maybe I’ll catch a crow or maybe a coon. Who knows?

Every day I or three I glance out the window and today I look out there and I’ve caught something but I’m not sure that it’s still alive. It isn’t moving and I don’t know how long it’s been in there. Possibly a few days.

I walk out onto the deck and the animal moves. It’s exhausted, from lying in the sun, but it’s alive. And now I see what it is.

I’ve caught an animal that I never wanted to catch. There is a live skunk in my live animal trap.

Now, a smart man would just leave it to die in the sun, which it inevitably would, in due time. Or, shoot it from the desk with a 12 gauge in a humane gesture.

But a fool would try to release it, unharmed, being as how it’s one of God’s creatures and all. Of course, I chose the path of the fool.

I approached this caged animal with a large black plastic trash bag, thinking to cover the trap with it, but the bag scared the skunk. So, I put the bag down and talked soothingly to the skunk as I approached him.

He actually seemed to calm down in response to my voice, but he periodically would raise his tail as a warning that a serious spraying was imminent.

I’d always slow down and coo enough that he’d let his guard down, and eventually, I was actually able to reach down and touch one end of the cage.

I know now, how a bomb technician feels. I was sitting there, dripping sweat, reaching for the bars of the cage with bare hands. Aside from his well-documented scent spraying trick, this black beady-eyed beast has claws like the blades on a grain thresher. They carry rabies. And this one is obviously having a very bad day.

Somehow, I was able to deftly lift open one end of the trap. I propped it open with a stick and gently backed away, amazed by my altruistic gesture of humanity.

But the skunk didn’t leave the cage. He was free, but he didn’t know it.

Now, a smart man would have left things this way. If the skunk is so dumb he can’t walk out of an open cage, then he deserves to die. So be it.

But no. I, Tarzan, Lord of the Animals decided that it needed some water. It was parched from being in the sun in the cage. Possibly it had heat stroke or was dehydrated.

So I went into the garage and fetched a commercial grade hose and attached it to the spigot under the redwood deck and walked down to the cage with the other end, intending to give him some water.

I went back and turned on the hose and a good amount of water ran down the hill and under the cage, but the skunk just cowered in the back of the cage and seemed uninterested in the water or in exiting from his new home.

Dejectedly, I turned off the hose and drove down the hill to get Jennifer.

“Baby…guess what I caught in the trap??

“A fox??


“A bear??

The trap isn’t that big.

“A gerbil??

“No. I’ll give you a hint. It’s something I never wanted to catch.?


“No. It’s something that I’m afraid to go near.?

“A mountain lion??

“No. I’ll give you another hint…it’s black and white.?

“A magpie??

“A skunk. I caught a skunk.?

“What did you do with it??

“Well, I got one end of the cage open and gave it some water. I’m sure he’s wandered off by now.?

But when we got home, a few hours later, he was still in there.

I decided that possibly he was blind or confused, and that I’d need to open the other end of the trap.

Now, keep in mind, no sane person would come to this conclusion. A smarter man would be indoors drinking beer and watching television.

But I, blissfully free of the scourge of common sense, decided to approach the cage again.

The other end of the cage is much harder to open for two reasons. 1) He is at that end of the cage and 2) there is a little safety latch that must be undone on that end to get the 2nd cage door open.

My fingers will be only an inch or two away from the skunk.

Once again, I am a bomb technician. I move my hands deftly down close to the skunk’s body. I’m cooing and talking to him, trying to calm him down. He repeatedly raises his tail to make sure that I’m away of his primary defense mechanism.

I’m a bomb technician again, down on my knees in the grass, bare hands trembling, trying not to bump the cage lest he spray me in my face from six inches away.

I reach down and deftly unclip the latch that holds the trap door and gently slide the rear door up and out of the cage and step behind the pine tree, out of the skunk’s field of view.

I breathe a big sigh of relief. Houdini could not have done it any better.

I am an idiot and a fool, but somehow, I’ve gotten away with it. A smart man would leave now and go inside.

But the skunk still won’t come out of the cage. Even with both ends of the cage open. So, I just can’t stand it anymore. He needs to leave the cage.

So I reach down and pick up a stick intending to poke him and get him out of the cage when he suddenly lifts his tail and twists his body so that his rear end is facing me and in about three one hundredths of a second this stream of water and mist comes spraying at me out of his scent glands.

Now – you know if you’ve been sprayed by a skunk before. It’ isn’t something you sit around and wonder, like “Hmmm…I wonder if I’ve ever been sprayed by a skunk?. If you’ve been sprayed by a skunk, you know.

When I was a kid, our dog Pepper cornered a skunk in a corrugated metal drain pipe under the neighbor’s driveway. She’d chased it in there and was right proud of herself, barking at it incessantly from alternate ends of the pipe.

I decided that I should get involved so I sprayed the hose into the culvert and the skunk came running out the other end and sprayed me but good. I think we burned some clothes and bathed in tomato juice. The details are sketchy, but I have a distinct recollection of getting sprayed in a big way and that was over 30 years ago, but these lessons stick with you.

Or they should.

And now, I’m 42 and I’m sprinting away from the skunk and peeling my clothes off like an Amsterdam whore and I wonder what went wrong in my life. I wonder how it is that, after 30 odd years, I decided to take on a skunk again. I wonder if someone shouldn’t have power of attorney over me.

I take off all my clothes and throw them in a little pile on the ground and run inside the house naked as a Jay bird and jump into the shower.

Jennifer would later say that she came inside and closed all the doors to keep the smell out. After I put her to bed, I verified from the deck with a flashlight that the skunk had wandered away on his own inscrutable life journey, and opened all the windows to air the house out. My clothes are still out there now, in a pile beneath the pine trees. Wallet, keys, et. al.

I called my brother to tell him what I’d done and he he was laughing so hard he almost ran off the road while I was telling him the story.

When he regained his composure, he said “You remember that time Pepper cornered a skunk and you sprayed it with a hose and that skunk sprayed us both??

“Uh…you were with me then, huh??

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 26, 2008 at 11:41 PM


You are just too darn funny!

Posted by: Mark on June 30, 2008 at 11:10 AM

auhg! i was trying to get a skunk out of a trap once, but he wouldnt come out, so i poked it with a stick, and it sprayed me! but it still wouldnt come out, so i had to get him out one way or the other, so i touched him trying to get him out and he sprayed me like 4 more times... and still couldnt come out, i called my sister on the cell phone - i had thank god- to come out and help, when she did she screamed, she was either scared of the sskunk, or i just smellled really bad. and when she did scream it skunked me an extra 3 times, i didnt need it -.-... when it finally came out it walked twards my sister, it was dark so it wouldnt have none were it was going, and of course, she shrieked... and boy, was it funny when the tables turned and she got skunked! i still did get it worse tho... i mean really... 7 times =/

Posted by: person123 on August 7, 2008 at 3:57 PM

Did you really get sprayed 7 times, or are you just making fun of me cause I’m so stupid? If you really did get sprayed 7 times, then it does make me feel better. I left my clothes outside for a solid 6 weeks, and they finally are wearable at this point (assuming you’re sitting alone in a smoky bar).

Posted by: Rob Kiser on August 8, 2008 at 12:40 PM

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