Another skunk

What I didn’t write in my most recent column ┬ábecause of space constraints was an incident that occurred the day before dog Bessie got sprayed by the backyard skunk I documented in print.

It was around 4 p.m. and I was running my three Springer Spaniels — Ringo, Lily and Bessie — in a neighboring hayfield along the western lip of the Green River, mid-Greenfield Meadows. The sun was out, perhaps 80 degrees, and I figured I’d take them through a bar-way and down to the riverbank in the lower level, a Christmas-tree farm.

I drove down a farm road about 200 yards and backed my truck up to within 20 feet of the bar-way before exiting and releasing the animals from their porta-kennels, Ringy first, then the two bitches. Ringy jumped down, trotted to the bar-way and lifted his leg on the railroad-tie fencepost as I released the bitches, who scampered out of their kennel and literally flew off the truck’s bed, disturbing the packed dirt upon landing and sprinting full-speed across a harrowed garden, all business, almost like they were fleeing something dangerous. What they were after I had no clue, but they were definitely pursuing something so I watched curiously as they burst into a healthy, green, red-clover field, shin-high, perhaps a month’s worth of growth.

The bitches, mother and daughter, were enthusiastic to say the least, clearly hunting in unison, bounding, quick changes of direction, scenting, similar to their routine when pursuing a game bird through dense cover. They must have smelled something from their kennel on the way through — either that or saw it — and were wasting no time searching. I figured it must have been the hen turkey and six poults I had seen a week or so earlier in the same field. They must have smelled them, I thought, and were hell-bent on flushing them into a riverside hardwood. So I let it play out before whistling them back, first Lily, then Bess, after I could see nothing was going to flush.

With Lily and Ringo at my side, Bessie was still riled up, bounding furiously through the clover, clearly on a mission. I hollered and whistled a few times to get her back. No luck. Then, finally, she acknowledged me, turned and sprinted back nearly as fast as she had left. Reunited, the four of us walked to the river, swam briefly and returned, work beckoning.

As I climbed over the gray, weathered, horizontal, 2-by-4 rail extending from midway up the right bar-way post, one leg at a time, ┬áBessie ran through and sprinted back where it had all begun earlier, in the clover field. Once there, it seemed instantaneous, she bound gracefully through the field, head high, quick turns, scenting. I figured why call her and make a scene? I’d just hop in the truck, drive toward her and she’d come without objection. I was right. She noticed me driving toward her, froze in a stately pose, dug her head into the clover and ran toward us. That’s when I noticed something in her mouth. It looked white. Hmmmm? What was it?

When she arrived at the truck, I could see it was a young skunk, limp and dead. No wonder I had gotten that sniff of skunk on the way down to the river. I thought a skunk had let lose down there for some reason, but what I was actually smelling was Bessie, maybe Lily, too. I just didn’t put it all together at the time. She and Lily had made quick work of that little skunk, poor thing, and Bessie had wrestled it free before Lily had returned to my call. Then, when Bessie decided to join us, she left the skunk behind. Upon our return to the truck, she went lickety-split to reclaim her trophy before Lily did.

When Bessie jumped up onto the truck’s bed, she held her prize high and proud before giving it to me. I made sure it wasn’t playing possum, grabbed it by the tail, pulled gently and took it before kenneling Bessie. Then I returned to the cab, opened the door, dangled the dead skunk through the window, inside out, started the truck, drove to the pavement, and tossed the dead critter into the roadside brush … presumed road-kill.

Finally, after weeks of nighttime torment by neighborhood skunks in their backyard kennel, Lily and Bessie got even. They killed the unfortunate critter in the clover patch, and Bessie was damn proud of it. Lily, too, I would guess.

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