It was in the heart of World War II when our family moved into a group home. Food was rationed and becoming scarcer. My Uncle Richard, Dad's brother, was expecting a baby, and my mother was barely pregnant. Their father, Grandpa Williamson, was dying. We all moved into a large farmhouse with a little land, just outside Williamsburg, NY. Uncle Dick, his wife Edith, my dad and mother, Grandma and Grandpa Williamson, and sometimes Edith's brother and mother's Aunt Amelia, lived together to make the best of things. It was on a highway and across from a railroad line. Newly trained draftees would go by, bravely waving as they traveled towards the horrors of war. There was lots of traffic for a four or five year old to watch and wonder at.
It was a very difficult time for everyone. The war was at its worst; news from overseas was grim and fatalities mounted. Dad and Uncle Dick both worked as civilians for the airplane industries. My mother, a few months pregnant, got the mumps. I had such a severe case of chickenpox the Doctor came out to the house. Cousin Ricky was born to Uncle Dick and Aunt Edith. Grandpa died at home. Mother gave birth, but the baby had been affected by the mumps and lived only a day. I got polio. And etcetera; life went on, and we took what little enjoyment available when and where we could find it.
For instance, one day a mother skunk was struck and killed on the highway. The odor was non-stop. Either Dad or Uncle Dick went out to investigate, perhaps to do cleanup, and found a baby skunk alive and desperately waiting for its mama to wake up. They brought it back to the house.
I recall Aunt Edith protesting vigorously, but Dad assured them it was far too young to spray and they would care for it until it was old enough to release. They lined a large barrel in the cellar with straw, and put the skunk in the barrel. Every morning at breakfast, Dad or Uncle Dick would use the cellar door in the kitchen to feed and care for the little critter. We would hear small squeaks as it eagerly awaited its morning feed. Once in a while Dad or my uncle would take me downstairs and show him to me. He had cute shiny button eyes and a glossy stripe down his back, and asked for attention (and food) by squeaking and stomping its little feet.
One morning we had bacon for breakfast! This was a real treat in the midst of wartime scarcity; usually we had cereal, or eggs from our own chickens. We were all in the huge kitchen with mouths watering. Dad and Uncle Dick hadn't come down yet, and the squeaks from the cellar were increasing as the skunk smelled the bacon cooking. I remember Aunt Edith laughing about it.....
About the time Uncle Dick and my dad arrived and breakfast was about to be served, the skunk had run out of patience. It let loose!
We had to vacate the kitchen. The whole house reeked all day. It was hard to believe a creature that small could do such damage. Dad and Uncle Dick decided that if the skunk was old enough to spray, it could be released. Good move! But I missed the little critter.