My wife and I Got Skunked (Literally)

My wife and I Got Skunked (Literally)

I fancy myself a BFF of "spaceship Earth." I live in the country. I watch birds, recycle, and raise organic vegetables. I slam on the brakes for small rodents, even woodchucks making a beeline for my garden.

Recently my putative ecological life-ways have been put to a severe test.

My wife and I were skunked. Like a couple of hound dogs.

In our defense, we weren't looking for trouble. In fact, we never even saw the little varmint. The four-legged stink bomb nailed us remotely, like some bucolic ground-hugging terrorist drone.

Outrunning the unbelievably noxious plume, as it inexorably enveloped us, was not an option: We were inching down the driveway, which we called our official Olympic Luge Track, complete with high-banked walls of hardened snow. Our cars would never make it down in one piece, much less up.

OK, so now we stink. I'm telling you we really stink. Abstruse adjectives quail before this semantic challenge. Let me explain it this way: if my wife and I had been, in fact, dogs; let's say cute, bounding Golden Retrievers, we wouldn't have let ourselves back in the house, for days.

But we are homo sapiens, for heaven's sakes. It was dark, and the temperature was approaching zero F. And "Downton Abbey" was about to start.

We stumbled across the threshold only to find that we were fresh out of Febreze. All improvised palliative efforts notwithstanding — for example, we threw our offensive clothing out on the snow-covered deck — and still our collective auras trailed us like the tail of Halley's Comet, and soon infused our home with the sickly sweet, acrid smell of our agitated woodland neighbor, against whom we had committed no earthly offense that we could think of.

Rather, the little stinker is lodging scot-free underneath our hay barn, where we can expect a brood of malodorous skunk-lets to appear by May, as many as 8, if Wikipedia is to be believed. Striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) are apparently mating now and each little Dickens is fully armed and dangerous, alarmingly enough, within eight days of emerging from the womb.

My wife and I may have interrupted a late winter tryst in the snow. Nature truly is a many splendored thing.

The next morning, awash in Old Spice, and with the car windows rolled down, I set off for work. I thought I was clean. I wanted to believe it. Or perhaps I simply had grown accustomed to my stink. Of course, every coworker who passed my desk asked a version of this: "Is it me or is there a skunk in the building?" Gamely I repeated, "It's you, I don't smell a thing."

I logged nearly half an hour on the computer before the consensus in the Marketing Department was that I needed to take some personal time. The only debate was over which was worse, essence de Pepé Le Pew or Old Spice (Fiji).

Long before this recent trauma, I was aware that living in harmony with nature is like any other relationship. There are challenges. For example, you can try to deter woodchucks from rampaging through your garden by deploying coyote urine around the fence, or if that is too dear, the equivalent contributed regularly by the proprietor of the truck patch.

But nothing has ever worked as surely as the combination of our late dog Bix's steely jaws and our neighbor Rob, who plunks critters from his deck. I used to cringe when I heard the sharp reports from over yonder. Now it is all I can do to suppress a smile.

I worry some about bears around the place, although I have yet to see one. But when my wife and I step outside of the house these days, we sniff the air warily, like a couple of Bichon Frises.