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Hello Mr. Skunk

By Frank Boyd

Now a couple of anecdotes related to granddaddy Lewis, which was what this was all leading up to. He used to take me around all over the farm. He would go out and he would check on the cattle that were pasturing, and he would show me where the deer were and where the pheasants were coveyed up and the quail. And we would walk through the woods, and he would show me around different places. Well, what he was also doing was, he would take me over and he would check on his still. He had a still stashed back up in the woods in what we called a little cove, which is nothing more than a wood-covered notch in the mountains. And back in there, he had his still, and he made his moonshine there.

On one of these forays coming back, we spotted an animal that darted into a large pile of rocks and boulders on the edge of a field. The rocks and boulders had been dragged out of the fields from the plowing and dumped up there in a large pile. The intention being that probably somewhere down the road they would be stone-boated over and added to the stone walls that were used to separate the fields out. But, in any event, this animal whatever it was, scooted in there and Pap- Pap said to me he said "Frankie stay away from there, I think that's a skunk'. And of course, I'm down poking around and looking in there and see this pair of little eyes gleaming at me. Of course, I didn't know at that age what a skunk was or what the problem was.

Anyway, I got me a big old long dead branch and I poked back up into that hole and I said "Come on out of there Mr. Skunk, come on out of there." Well, he did and he let fly and he splattered that stuff all over me. I've got to tell you I didn't realize what it was, and I didn't realize at first that I smelled bad. Because of course, the stench is so bad and it immediately numbs all your olfactory senses. Fortunately, none of it got in my eyes, because I understand that it makes your eyes sting and burn like crazy. I can believe that because I know that after I began to realize that I didn't smell to good, my eyes began to water and burn or what have you, probably from the vapors or whatever that was coming off my clothes.

Well, granddaddy wouldn't pick me up and I wanted him to pick me up. I was crying and he wouldn't pick me up. He told me I had to walk. I had to be a big boy and walk. So we walked and I cried and he kept coaxing me along and finally we got up to the barnyard and he went up and he knocked on the back door. Aunt Jenny came out, and of course I'm standing out there at the edge of the porch and he's got a hold of the back of my overalls and won't let me go in. I wanted to go to my Aunt Jenny. I wanted to go to somebody. And, Aunt Jenny she starts screaming and hollering, raising the dickens. Anyway, she chased me back up into the yard. She told me I should stay with Pap- Pap. He smelled so bad, you couldn't tell the difference anyway.

Anyway, Pap Pap told Aunt Jenny to get a bunch of big cans of tomato juice. Well, Pap-Pap went and got a big old galvanized iron tub that they used for something or another around the farm there. The thing was probably about the size of one of those Wal-Mart Plastic swimming pools now, the small ones. He had me take all of my clothes off and climb into that thing. He filled it up with water from the pump. It was cold and I didn't want to get in there, and Aunt Jenny came out and she put some old soap flakes on the back porch. Pap Pap went and got that and he mixed it in with the water and it didn't work worth a didley, but I had to get into the water. I had to wash my hair. Finally, he came over. I guess I got to the place where I was either so pitiful or I was getting some of it off of me. He changed the water a couple or three times. He would take a bucket and dip down in there and dip the water out and throw it out and fill it back up again. By this time I guess I was so damn numb from the cold water, cause it came right up out of the well, that I couldn't tell the difference. Oh, I was miserable.

Well, finally Aunt Jenny came out with some big old cans of tomato juice. They shook them and sloshed them up and they drained all of the water out of the tub and made me get back in there again. They opened those cans of tomato juice up with a "church key" and they poured it in my hair and they poured it all over me.

After awhile, Aunt Jenny came out with a couple of buckets of warm water and she added warm water in there and they filled it back up with water from the pump and put in warm water. She came out with a big bar of that old yellow soap. I don't know Octagon soap or something like that, and they scrubbed me down. I guess after two or three washing downs with tomato juice and that old yellow soap, they got to the place where they could be around me without it making their eyes water. But, that's how I knew where Pap- Pap slept because they wouldn't let me in the house. I had to go up and sleepin the stable with Pap- Pap, but he said that was all right. And I remember that that night I slept as cozy and as comfortable as I ever have, because I cuddled up with him there in the bunk, and he put that big old horse blanket over both of us, cause I was cold and shivering. Then finally I fell asleep. But, I'll tell you something, I have had a deep and abiding respect for Mr. Skunk ever since.

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Copyright 2001 - Frank Boyd