Baxter Black: On The Edge Of Common Sense 9-23-13

JB and Deb are one of those couples that form the backbone of Agriculture. They have a diversified operation that includes livestock, loans, machinery and kids. There are times when it seems they can read each other’s minds.

They were coming back across the pasture, her walking, him riding the Polaris Ranger. “Hop up here, Darlin’,” he invited. She hopped up and put her arm around his shoulders as they bumped along a two-track dirt trail. A skunk wobbled out of the grass and onto the trail.

Deb felt, rather than saw, JB smile. “Don’t you be thinkin’ what I think yer thinkin’,” she said flatly.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“You know what I mean … runnin’ over him. Don’t you even be thinkin’ that.”

“Aw,” he said, “How can you think I’d do something as dumb or insane or stupid as runnin’ over a skunk!”

“Ya know,” she said, “That’s what I told my mother when she asked if I was gonna marry YOU!”

JB sped up just enough to catch the skunk. He jumped off, grabbed a shovel from the back of the Ranger and took out after the skunk. He was stumbling in his rubber boots over the rough ground but was athletic enough to wield the shovel. It clunked the ground, bounced back and thumped the skunk!

In the Compendium of Skunk Thumping one would learn that skunks are of the Order Carnivora (which includes mongooses, hyenas and walrusi) and I quote “If you encounter a skunk, back away slowly and quietly … be careful not to frighten them … an extremely fetid liquid …”

If a person is close enough to thump a skunk, (an arm’s length plus 4 foot shovel handle), it is reasonable to assume this person would be within the range of this sub-family Mephitinae member. It has been shown that skunks can spray 20 feet, weather permitting, and be accurate at 10 feet. This certainly includes JB’s position in space at that moment.

JB took the full load, which according to The Skunk Authority, would be approximately a tablespoon of musk. Now, a tablespoon doesn’t sound like much. Picture Mary Poppins singing, “… a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down,” etc. But the skunk’s ‘extremely fetid liquid’, a nasty combination of chemicals that also lend aroma to decomposing flesh and feces, reacts slowly with water to activate. Thus, the more you try to wash it off, the more you activate the smell!

JB’s coveralls took the brunt of the attack. He was able to continue wearing them due to that odd protective device called olfactory fatigue; the receptors of skunk odor that quickly shut down in self-defense. Actually he wore them until Deb’s head cold cleared up, then she burned them.

They also have rattlesnakes in eastern Colorado in addition to skunks. JB has a little flat-blade scoop up against the frame of their back door for Deb, the accepted method of rattlesnake protection on the farm. “He’s always lookin’ out for me,” she said with affection patting his arm.

He blushed, shuffled his feet, “Aw, shucks,” he said. ❖