My favorite comic strip was "Pogo," featuring an opossum and his lady friend, a flapper-type called Miss Hepsibeth. Miss Hepsibeth was a dainty character, 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! Several years ago there was a real live Pogo in my carport - probably eating from my dog’s self-feeder. He definitely was 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, a charming lady skunk! 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.
Years ago, on a warm spring day, my friend Betty Bretz and I were bicycling to Harrisburg early one morning, and suddenly there was a 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 Hepsibeth. We were her captives.
Her unbearable "defense" is the most obnoxious, long lasting and penetrating odor imaginable and comes as a powerful spray from a pair of glands near her tail. Those glands 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 days after encountering an upset skunk!
Luckily, Miss Hepsibeth 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, our director said, "Sue, where could Sug get a live skunk?" Her son, Burton "Sug" Leach, needed a live skunk for his lab work. I just laughed. Weeks later, though, I saw Miss Hepsibeth running along a roadside fence. I suddenly decided to help Sug with his lab work - but I didn’t want to 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 Range Line. I called Frances, and 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!
Now, I wonder whether that opossum in my carport really was as sweet as Pogo?