Going on a Skunk Hunt
Living in the country you encounter all sorts of critters that roam the fields, like rabbits, opossums, armadillos or skunks. These are harmless enough in small numbers, but occasionally it is necessary to rid the farm of an excess of these critters. Skunks, for instance, are helpful in many ways but only in limited numbers. They are not so bad to have around the farm. They will keep mice out of the barns as well as any cat. But, skunks seem to rival rabbits for prolific breeding and reproducing. So out of necessity, we would have skunk hunting parties on dark moonless nights. It is called survival of the fittest.
We didn't just go hunting skunks, like some good ole' boys just because it's fun and we wanted to shoot up the place. First of all, there must be a reason for the hunt. For instance, when too many skunks are roaming too close to the house, or when the rascals are having their own party, next to the hunting dog pen, causing the dogs to howl at the top of their lungs most of the night making the little critters visit us with their aroma therapy. These are legitimate reasons for having a hunt. My parents had hunts at those times, but, occasionally they took the hunt to different extremes. They loved having a skunk hunt when someone was visiting that they wanted to discourage from visiting again, or when company had overstayed their welcome, or just to get a reaction. When Daddy had had enough, say around 10 or 11 o'clock in the evening, he would usually stand and say, “Well, who wants to go skunk hunting?” The first reaction was, “Go ahead, finish your story.” Then dead silence when they realized he was serious as he started getting out the guns. I'm sure, about this time, they either decided we were perfectly nuts and it was high time to hit the road or we really were insane and they needed to stick around and look after us until someone had us all committed. As Mama often said, “To be considered a bit off beat has its advantages. It relieves the mind of the plague of constantly conforming to the average. To be a bit eccentric lets you find out who your real friends are.” Those “overstayed company guest” hunts I enjoyed a lot, but the best were the hunts with our “old shoe” friends, like Mama used to say. You know, the friends that fit like an old shoe who knew we were nuts and didn't care. Those were the best parties, full of silliness and laughter. We'd stay up all night at those parties.
Having a skunk hunt is tricky business because timing has to be perfect. To be successful you need, besides the pick-up truck, a flashlight, like the miners wear as they look for coal, and someone who is a crack shot from a slow moving vehicle, usually my brother, with good balance, in case the slow moving vehicle accelerated with a jerk and a jolt or a jet propelled lurch. You also needed a good driver and one to ride “shotgun”. I frequently rode shotgun.
At first Daddy would go slowly down the pasture lane with the lights off. While everyone else was instructed to remain very quiet so the quarry was undisturbed. I would be sitting on top of the hood, using my flashlight to search for pairs of gleaming eyes. Now the trick was to tell if you were about to shoot your prize stallion or a rabbit. It is illegal to shoot rabbits at night because they are a game animal, but skunks are just varmints. When it was clear it was a skunk, I'd signal daddy and he would turn on the truck lights which signaled my brother, the shooter. Then a quick shot, right between the eyes, like a deer in the headlights. A quick flash, the instant shot and all is well. But a second's hesitation or a poorly aimed shot can really louse up the whole deal which would result in ending he hunt early and sleeping outside for a month washing with peroxide, baking soda and tomato juice. After that, the party would drive elsewhere around the property to begin the hunt again. If this seems cruel and heartless, it really isn't. They never knew what hit them. This is the reality of dealing with nature in the raw.
If the company was spending the night, Daddy would upset the apple cart even more. The next morning, in the clear light of day, around breakfast, the argument would be around who would retrieve the bodies and haul them off to the deep woods. Often while the argument was going on concerning pick-up detail, the company would depart. But occasionally, there would be that rare guest that loved the entire experience and couldn't wait to share more of the work. We gladly let them.
Gotta love those parents.
© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.