It was definitely one of the 'dog days of summer' in the Nova Scotia Valley of the Apples. It was already 28* at 8:00 AM, the air so still and thick that I was hard pressed to distinguish between real pets and lawn adornments. Every living creature was slowed down to a stop it seemed. Driving the big old pickup truck with the special payload in the back was certainly one of those times when I would say to myself "How the heck did I get into this pickle?"
The winding old highway with its hairpin turns, hidden driveways and blind crests took careful meandering, luckily for me, because as I came around one of the worst turns I could see a police road check. Now, considering the smell surrounding and in the truck I was driving I reckoned this was going to be very interesting indeed! The young policeman waved me toward him, checked for seatbelt usage, and all was Ok. Then he asked for my Drivers License, causing me to turn to my backpack and root around for it. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder, and I turned to see what had been a young mans pleasant face turning into a grotesque and distorted mask! His eyes were full of water, and I am sure his bottom lip was up over his nose. Obviously he had been struck with the full force of the penetrating odor surrounding me and my truck, an aroma that was even worse in the hot weather.
"What is that smell?" he managed to croak.
" Oh, that, don't worry, it's just a skunk in the box in back. It's a skunk trap and we are trying to relocate a family of skunks that have settled under our shed. We trap them at night, with peanut butter on a stick in the box, then in the morning we bring them out to the pond and let them go!" I explained.
I kept trying to be casual about this whole daunting escapade. In the few seconds it took me to bounce out of the truck and walk to the tail gate asking "Do you want to see this one?", there were three suffering policemen gathered, but standing back a fair distance from the vehicle. I opened one end of the trap and sure enough there was 'Pepe la Pew', stinking to high heaven! The men all backed away and indicated I could, should, please 'take it out of here'. I dillydallied, knowing the smell would not get any worse than it was right now. A skunk cannot spray unless it can raise its tail and the trap would not allow him to do that. I had learned this from a crash course in 'skunk trapping' a farmer friend of mine had given me. The trap was built, and we started catching skunks like crazy.
After working all night, and the heat suffocating me, I would not rest knowing that little animal was being asphyxiated and could die if left all day in that box. I had no choice but to set it free. I would take him to the pond where we took the others, tilt the trap, and open the end door, and he would run off toward the water, obviously following the scent of where the others had gone. I did this many times that summer, never ever got sprayed, liberated the skunks, drove home, got a shower and that was that.
Now back living in Newfoundland for almost five years, those days of skunks, raccoons, porcupines and snakes, and the big ugly 'June bugs' seem so far away. None of those creatures are part of our ecosystem here. I didn't mind the animals but the skunks could destroy a lawn in a day, digging for bugs, raccoons would ruin a cornfield, snakes were seemingly harmless, porcupines quiet and unobtrusive, but the June bugs terrified me. The big fat old raccoon that slept draped over the high branches of the willow tree didn't bother anyone, he left during the dark hours, but the skunks could be downright confrontational. If a skunk sprayed, its manner of protection, then it would be costly and time consuming to clean up a pet, furniture may as well be destroyed and for the human it would be two days in a shower! So the family of skunks we had definitely could not stay under the shed. My husband put the lawn mower in the shed, left it on, and hoped to gas them out, but all that did was bring neighbors over to ask him if he knew 'your mower is on in the shed?'- causing many laughs. Of course he knew, but the skunks didn't care. So that is when the trapping went into high gear.
However, all the land we were living on was orchard land, land that had become occupied by humans. So indeed we were in their space, not them in ours. But nobody wanted to hear that rant, and I kept on truckin' skunks, and kind of got to like the little things. I was tempted to drop one off at a place where people would be quite perturbed but did not give into the temptation.
Summer went on, lots of skunks were relocated by one of our household, or by me, and the little creatures were not harmed, I never got stopped by the police again. I did go into the parking lot of the local bank and came out of the building after about ten minutes to find a crowd gathered around the old truck. That was an experience. Little children were brought to our place to see the baby skunks, lots of peanut butter globs were made up for bait, and lots of conversations revolved around the skunk project.
It's all a memory now, and the Nova Scotian saying of "You got skunked!", meaning you lost out, is still used by us after so many years in that beautiful province, and we get odd glances when that is said, but that's just fine. I liked my skunk summer, and I was always sure the police would not stop me again. I had seen the transformation of a young mans' face into a rubber mask not too many people get to see that sort of thing!
Ah, yes, the skunks of summer'what an odoriferous memory!