A hug before you get sprayed

Since I leave fairly early on Saturday mornings to make our deliveries, I do my best to get to bed early on Friday nights.

On such a night in mid-December I fell asleep extra early, while getting our son Arthur to bed, only to be awoken shortly thereafter by our daughter Emilie.

“Dad, dad!” she said. “You need to come downstairs and go outside and do something for Mommy.”

I was tired and disoriented from having been soundly asleep before she came in the room.
I struggled to understand what was happening and why my sleep had been interrupted so abruptly.

One of our dogs was barking loudly outside.

In a daze, I lumbered downstairs to ask Morgan what was going on, but before I could, Emilie looked at me seriously with outstretched arms and said, “I need a hug first.”

“Huh, why?” I replied. “What’s going on?”

“Give me a hug now, before you get sprayed,” she continued.

“Sprayed?” I groggily asked in confusion, although the situation outside was beginning to materialize in my mind’s eye.

“Give me a bedtime hug now, before you get sprayed by the skunk mommy want’s you to deal with.”

I sighed, knowing that my evening had gone somewhat into the ditch. I had already showered and already tasted deep sleep.Yet now I was about to go outside and enforce (what I think of as) our liberal and relaxed – but firm – rules about wild animals on the farmstead.

We pride ourselves in farming WITH nature, rather than against it.
Our farm is brimming with wildlife. Whitetail deer, black bear and coyotes frequently leave tracks through our pastures. We also host turkeys, pheasants and other fowl in our tall grasses and oak groves.
And small mammals, including raccoons, skunks and possums are welcome throughout – but not in and immediately surrounding our buildings (house, garage and barn).

When I got outside, our dog was barking next to the garage, having cornered the striped intruder.

How did Emilie know to hug me before I went outside? Because (regrettably) I seem to get sprayed at least a couple times a year. I could probably do more to protect myself, but by the time a problematic skunk becomes known to us, usually it is already inside a building or entrenched in a habit of pilfering cat kibble, and I decide to just take the bull by the horns and get it over with.

Our local skunk population has a tendency to emulate our outdoor barn cats. Using cat doors and stealing cat food, etc., and as a result, a couple times a year I have to enforce our “no trespassing” rule.

And just like clockwork, before I knew it, the skunk turned 180 degrees and sent a green haze in my direction.
It’s not just in the cartoons. Skunk spray actually has a green color and is visible to the naked eye as it is emitted. (You get a sinking feeling as this olive-colored cloud floats in your direction).

Our dog began yipping and ran in the opposite direction of the skunk, and then immediately began rolling in the snow to try and shake the smell.

I winced at the overwhelming odor, but not having interest in rolling in the snow myself, focused on finishing the task of “relocating” the skunk promptly.

Went I went back inside, I was thankful that a second shower knocked down nearly all of the smell and I even passed Emilie’s smell-test and she was willing to give me a second hug goodnight.

And unless folks were just being kind, no one mentioned anything about my smell the next morning either.

Thanks for reading,
Farmer Andre

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