I know, I know, if I’d taken the time to clean out the barn, I wouldn’t have to worry about skunk removal. But, what’s done is done. There, amongst the broken lawn mower, the old bag of dog food that I’d forgotten about, a couple of empty gas cans and all the random stuff we carted out of our newly remodeled home, lives a skunk. It’s bigger than a poodle and fluffy, and it most definitely does not want to move out of my barn.
Usually, I take extra care to winterize our entire property. As fall is ending and the cold weather sets in, I take care of everything, including giving the lawn a last good mow, placing tree stakes near all the trunks, cutting back the roses and cleaning out the barn before making sure the house is ready for the cold months ahead.
Things were a little different this last year. Our last child graduated high school and then headed off to college. We had the house to ourselves. My wife was determined to remodel, and I think it had more to do with combating empty-nest syndrome than a desperate need to have a new master bath, but I was happy to comply. College doesn’t come cheap, so we did most of the work ourselves, which made for an extremely busy fall. It never occurred to me that skunk removal would be the consequence to ignoring my normal self-imposed duties.
But, here I am, standing in the doorway of my barn, dressed in a cheap hazmat-like suit purchased at the hardware store, armed with a net on the end of a long pole. As the skunk turns and tries to burrow its way deeper into the debris littering the barn, I realize a net is probably not the best skunk removal tool. I realize I am standing at a crossroads of choices – either press forward into the dark recesses of the barn chasing after this odorous animal, or back out gracefully and get a professional trapper who is experienced at skunk removal. I’m a man, and I assume I can do it myself, so I press forward carefully.
In the dim light, I become aware of little brown pellets littering the floor, especially around the bag of forgotten dog food. I realize the sorry state of my barn gave it a perfect place to hole up for the winter, and the dog food and rodents provided an excellent food source.
I stop, aware of a scrabbling noise on my right. I can just make out the form of the skunk as it tries to squeeze itself further out of sight, and I approach carefully, stretching out my net. Suddenly, the skunk whirls around and lifts its tail, and I realize I made the wrong choice trying to remove the skunk by myself. But, by now, it is too late, and I can only hope the weak respirator I wear and the cheap paper covering I wear over my clothes will keep the worst of the skunk spray off of me as I run out of the barn.