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More Stories - The Way We Were

Like Skunks?

Hilda Graham has sent a little story with a children's poem: See Hello, Mister Skunk.

skunk

When I was in school, great sport was poking fun at schoolmates' efforts to recite tongue twisters - or competitions to see who could say them faster and more accurately.  Here's one I had forgotten:

A skunk sat on a stump.
The skunk thunk the stump stunk.
The stump thunk the skunk stunk.

Try it - with your kids or at the senior center, or wherever - it's fun to get your tang tungled!

During WWII when I was four or five we lived on in a communal farmhouse with a number of other family members and their families, with just enough land for a big garden, a barn for making soap, harvesting and storage (see Remember Oleo?).  This house sat right by a highway which was a main route for movement of troops, tanks and so on, a source of amusement as I would wave at them and they waved back.  Unfortunately a mama skunk tried to cross the road at an imprudent moment, leaving an orphaned baby behind.

We had a huge hogshead barrel in the basement.  Daddy lined it with straw, put in an old pan with water and put the little skunk in it.  Every morning and evening he'd take it scraps from our meal.  It was quite friendly, and Daddy let me pet it a time or two, but we handled it as little as possible so he could release it into the wild again.

Our household was always on the edge of some crisis or other.  One morning Aunt Edith was cooking some bacon; Daddy was tied up with something and hadn't had time to feed the skunk.  The door down to the basement either wasn't sealed or more likely left agap.  The skunk couldn't stand it one moment longer, hungry and smelling that wonderful aroma, and let loose his displeasure as only a skunk can.  Daddy decided it was old enough to be returned to the wild.

Years later when I was in my teens and times were hard, Dad took an early morning job in Sarasota delivering the Tampa Tribune.  I was living and working in town, not too far from the center where the papers were dispatched, and on Thursdays when the paper was large due to all the grocery and other ads and for Sunday's big paper and larger subscription list, Dad would come and wake me up to help him handle the delivery.  As latest arrival (and a Yankee to boot) Dad was given the hardest, longest route available.  It started far north of town east of Oneco, through Tallevast, taking in the papaya, pole bean and celery growers (what an amazing, pungent smell!), the poorest as well as the few richer of the segregated black community in that area, the dairy farms, the citrus groves redolent with sweet perfumes and bordered with tall whispering Australian pines, all around the Ringling Circus area where we often heard the male lions roaring their territory, and more groves and farmers, many with odd Brahmin beef cattle with their camel-like humps, guarded by guinea hens and peacocks who would really let loose by screaming indignantly when the paper thwacked down.  We finished in the vast rural area between southern Sarasota and Mayakka where my family lived, and after breakfast, Dad would take me back home where we would both rush off to work.

There was one dirt road that led back to two dairy farmers, both subscribers.   While many farmers came to central points on the highway where we had left the paper in tubes on posts, these two insisted on personal delivery.    A skunk lived along this road.  It would wait for our car, and then walk deliberately into the middle of the road.  When it was sure we were stopping at a decent distance, it would sit and start grooming itself.  This would go on for some time as we sat and rolled papers, the skunk occasionally looking up with a smirk, until finally it would amble away and let us go by, I'm sure laughing all the way.

Skunks' credo:  I Stink, Therefore I am.

Actually, skunks don't usually stink.  They only use it as a defense against being eaten by a predator, but the smell is potent and long lasting, clinging to the animal as well long after use of its weapon.

Probably the most famous skunk joke (remember this pun from school - it's that old...)

A mother skunk was always in a panic because she couldn't keep track of her two tiny ones.  One was named Out and the other In. When Out was in, In was out.  One day she saw Out but couldn't find In.  She told Out to go out and bring In in.  In about twenty seconds, Out brought In in.  Surprised, the mother skunk asked, "How did you find him so fast?"  The tiny skunk answered, "It was easy. In stinked!"

Oh, well... 

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