On Air Now
Fri August 29, 2014
A Skunk in the Night
It was two a.m. I rolled over in bed, aware that someone was standing in the room. "Dad!" a voice whispered. "Dad!" It was my son. Staring blearily at his silhouette, I mumbled, "What is it?"
"Dad, there's a badger outside my room."
I sat up. "A badger?"
"Yeah," he said, still in a whisper. "A badger. I looked it up on Google. It's in the window well.
Look - I even took a picture."
He held out his phone. On the screen was a blurry image of my son's face reflected in a window, eyes dazzled by the camera flash. Dimly in the background, however, I could seen a furry shape with a thin white line down its nose.
This, by all accounts, was the badger. Time passed, and nobody moved. Finally, I said, "So, you want me to do something about this?"
"Yes - it keeps banging against the glass. I can't sleep."
"Okay," I sighed. "I'll come take a look." We went to the basement, and peered out his window. The window well was empty. "I swear it was just there," he said. "It must have burrowed underground." He pointed at a mound of fresh dirt next to a small hole.
I went back to bed. Ten minutes later, he was back. "Dad - I was wrong. It's not a badger. It's a skunk." This time when we went to look, a familiar black and white face was staring back at us from the window well. It must have fallen down in, I said. We need to help it climb back out.
By this point, others in the house were also waking up. My other son looked on quizzically as I grabbed a flashlight and an eight foot long two-by-four. "Want to see a skunk," I asked? "I guess," he replied. "Then follow me!" I called, striding out into the night.
Stealthily we set off across the front of the house, flashlight shining the way, giant plank of wood held out like a jouster's lance at a medieval tournament. We rounded the corner and... ohhh - not five feet from us was a black and white tail, swishing dangerously in the night air. Nobody told me there was another one!!!! Do they hunt in packs??? [can you tell I grew up in the city?]
I am not ashamed to admit that at this point I squealed like a five-year-old, dropped the wooden plank, and ran for my life.
After about twenty-five yards of hard running, it occurred to me that I was probably over-reacting. I looked over my shoulder and discovered that nothing was chasing me. Not even my son. Breathing hard, I retraced my steps. Peering around the corner of the house, I saw to my relief that my skunk had turned in the direction of the neighbors' back yard. Furthermore, I discovered that when I shone my flashlight in its direction, it moved away, as if to escape the light.
So this became my strategy. Flash, move, flash, move, flash, move. In this fashion, I edged along the side of the house to the top of the window well. Looking down, I saw indeed, there was a skunk, walking in circles and looking frustrated. Gently, I lowered one end of the plank into the hole, leaving the other end sticking out at ground level. I don't know if skunks can climb, I thought. But this is a whole lot better than carrying it out.
Back inside, we sat at the table and ate cornflakes, then went to bed. I don't know what happened in the next six hours. I slept, the stars shone, great minds turned in the moonlight. All I know is that the next morning, the window well was empty. I retrieved the two-by-four and put the flashlight back on the shelf.
I was a hero to my family. To the skunks, not so much. The next night our dog chased something in the back yard and got sprayed so badly it brought tears to the eyes. The dog is currently not welcome indoors, and we're still airing out the house.
The next time I find a skunk in a hole, it can climb out on its own.