By Kim Carr:
Awakened from a sound sleep by the dogs (Lucy, then joined by Marilyn) who were going crazy right outside my bedroom window, I grabbed a jacket, boots, gun, and flashlight. I get outside and both dogs are right behind the house—but when they see me, they retreat. I start shining my flashlight up and down the fence row to see if I can see anything.
So, I keep shining because something had them riled up. I spot a creature along the fence row. Looks like my big male Muscovy, Ranger, on the wrong side of the fence. I instantly think the dogs had been going crazy because Ranger was out of place. The duck lives in my mom’s yard and sleeps in her chicken house (he was raised by a chicken seven, eight years ago). On exceedingly rare occasions, he might step out of my mom’s yard for three seconds if I leave the gate open while doing chores. He does not like the world beyond my mom’s yard; I have taken him to the pond twice, and he beats me back to the yard. Ranger is king of the yard—no other male ducks really cross over into his territory, but the lady ducks come to visit. He has a good life for a duck.
So, my mind tells me this creature is Ranger, stuck on the wrong side of the fence, scared, and not knowing how to get back in the yard. Between weeds and Rose of Sharon’s, I cannot see along the fence row too well and am watching were I step so I don't hit a hole or a doggie land mine. I get right to where Ranger is, though on the other side of the fence, and right outside my bedroom window. I shine my light to see if he is injured so I know if I need to go grab a blanket or whatever before trekking out into the field to get him.
Lo and behold, two feet from me is not Ranger but his smelly imposter, Mr. Skunk, who shoots me a friendly—or not so friendly—hello.
So, I don't know if you have ever been skunked before—I have, it is no fun. Ever since I was skunked trying to release a young skunk from a live trap thirteen or fourteen years ago, the smell of skunk nauseates me. I turn green, at least mentally I do. My tummy goes swirly and I try my best not to breathe, which is hard since that is a necessity for life. Here's the thing: no matter what you do to yourself or your clothing, skunk perfume clings to every nasal hair you have. Now, nasal hairs are not something I'd ever given any thought to till I was skunked. Now they are one of my most treasured body parts because of my heightened awareness of their functionality.
Maybe it is because of my over-stimulated nasal hairs years ago, I do not like perfumey-type stuff. So even though my mom loves candles, she does not burn them anymore except in her bathroom or bedroom. She has those little fancy thingies that melt stuff and make everything smell like the French Quarter in New Orleans, minus the cigar smoke (though I have never been to New Orleans, so I am just imagining). This also means we do not have cans of Lysol, air fresheners, or any other product that can alter the air quality quickly. Therefore, no matter how clean I get everything else, I must keep my nasal cavity slathered in Vicks VapoRub. I even tried shampooing inside my nose with Q-tips—does not work. Skunk perfume gets absorbed into the membrane, tissues, and whatever it is that attaches your nasal hairs to your body. Therefore, you are left smelling skunk for a long, long time.
Both Marilyn and Lucy meet me at the door wanting in the house as I start for the shower. Of course, I did not want to let two huge possible skunk bombs into the house to frolic and play, because that is the first thing a freshly skunked dog will do: they will roll and rub against every rug, carpet, and piece of furniture you have trying to rid themselves of the skunk perfume. As they roll and frolic all over every porous thing in your home, they embed the magical fragrance so that you can enjoy it for days and weeks to come. Baking soda helps, but it is not a cure all.
Anyhow, I want to double check Lucy and Marilyn before letting them in the house, so I bend over and do a sniff test. (How brilliant am I? All along I have been trying not to breathe, trying to minimize the adhesion factor of skunk perfume to my nasal hairs and now here I go inhaling at maximum capacity to do a sniff test on my dogs!) Well, guess what, they tested positive, and now I want to hurl as I stand blocking the doorway with my body, preventing them from coming in and Zak from going out. Of course, our lovely new perfume is seeping into the house like fog over the Golden Gate Bridge (this one I do know for a fact).
In an attempt to convince Lucy and Marilyn that they want to stay out for the night, I grab some dog bones and toss them on the deck hoping that will distract them and take their mind off the fact that they stink to high heaven and back again. I toss Zak a bone, too, trying to talk him into staying inside and avoiding all the shenanigans going on outside.
Now after doing laundry, showering, and packing my nose with Vicks, I wonder if I still smell of skunk perfume or is it the house?
I am regretting my life choices of going aerosol/fake-aroma-smell free. Right now, I would dance about the house leaving a trail of rain forest mist or rose garden until my senses overwhelmed me.
The good news is my mom’s bedroom door is shut. So far, she has not emerged wondering what is going on. Maybe the house does not smell of skunk perfume, maybe it is just me, maybe it is just what has embedded in my nasal passages. Time will tell. Come 7:30 a.m. or so, my mom will emerge from the safety zone. Will she shriek and retreat, or will she even notice??? To be safe, I put a large note on the door not to let Lucy and Marilyn in. Luckily, it is a mild night. Tomorrow morning I will tackle de-skunking the girls. That's why every country house should have a huge mud room with walk-in shower, concrete floors with drainage, washer & dryer . . . all the necessities to take care of messes without destroying your home in the process.
Enough time has passed. The dogs have settled. I have the Vicks next to my bed so I can continually reapply as needed. I have brushed my teeth now three times because that is the bad thing about your nasal passage, it is a direct shot to your mouth where apparently your tongue will soak up what you smell—lucky me. Why can't skunks emit aromas like BBQ, fresh-baked bread, or snickerdoodles? Good news is, everybody is safe and sound, including Ranger the duck.
P.S. Are there pleasant-smelling, environmentally friendly sprays out there . . . in case of emergencies?
Kim Carr is a photographer and mid-Missouri hobby farmer who has combined her love for the country life with that of natural-light photography. Her work reflects my commitment to sustainable agriculture and the humane treatment of all animals. To learn more about Kim, read her interview with Elizabeth Gracen here.
To purchase Kim's photography, visit her website.