Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Smelly skunks look cuter in funnies than in real life

I call them "the funnies" because I read the panels that make me laugh. Who, having had teenagers in the family, could recycle a Tribune without first reading "Zits?" The "For Better or For Worse" Canadian family, the Pattersons, takes us into life situations with messages for all ages; babies are born, and people age and die as they encounter and solve real-life challenges. These funnies make us laugh, and they also teach life’s lessons.

Several years ago, my favorite comic strip was about Pogo, an opossum, and his lady friend, a flapper called Miss Hepsibeth. Miss Hepsibeth was a dainty character and had a shiny black coat with a bright white stripe down her back and tail. She was treated with great respect, of course, because she was a skunk! This week there was a real Pogo in my carport - probably eating from my dog’s self-feeder. He was definitely not cute. He bared his teeth at me as if he owned the place - which he did for that moment.

I do not wish to host Miss Hepsibeth, either. I refer to all skunks as Miss Hepsibeth and stay a good distance away from them because they conceal a surefire defense mechanism at the base of that black-and-white tail.

Several years ago on a warm spring day, Betty Bretz and I were bicycling to Harrisburg early one morning, and suddenly there was Miss Hepsibeth, directly in front of my bike. She was quietly tapping her dainty little feet, and I was gaining ground with every pedal stroke. What to do? Sound our bike bells? No. Scare her off into the woods? No! Try to pass unnoticed? Too risky.

We slowed to a snail’s pace and, whispering, decided to quietly cross to the opposite side of the road and try to get ahead without upsetting Miss H. We were her captives. Her unbearable spray is the most obnoxious, long-lasting and penetrating odor imaginable. That "defense" comes as a powerful spray from a pair of glands near the tail; they propel the sickening odor for great distances - and it lasts for more than a week. Many a hunting dog has been locked in a barn or tied out in the woods for a week or longer after encountering an upset skunk! And I had to be back at Christian College to teach swimming classes from 2 to 5 p.m! Miss H crossed to the opposite side of the road and gave Betty and me no problems; we pedaled faster and quietly outran her.

One night at choir practice, Frances Stice said, "Sue, where could Sug get a live skunk?" Her son Sug Leach, needed a skunk for lab work. I just laughed. Weeks later, I saw Miss Hepsibeth running along a roadside fence. I suddenly wanted to help Sug with his lab work, but I wouldn’t follow Miss Hepsibeth home! Suddenly she put her head to the ground and disappeared. I stopped. The skunk went in the ground by a wooden fence post. I counted fence posts. Her den was at the eighth post north of the intersection of Bowling Lane on the east side of Rangeline Road. I called Frances; she called Sug. He got that skunk by reaching into the hole and holding the skunk’s tail down against its body. I had heard that the horrible odor can only be sprayed when the tail is up high. I’ll take their word for that!

I wonder if that opossum in my carport really is as sweet as Pogo?

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