For a while Grandma and Grandpa Dick had kids all over the world. At one time Harold and Judith lived in Israel, Marv and Edith lived in Hamilton and Ted and Betty lived in Germany (they outlasted the others.) Now John and Ruth lived in Niverville, but although that made them strange, it did not result in needing to travel and visit them for days and weeks at a time.
It was always exciting then when “the cousins came home” to the farm. Less exciting was when Grandma and Grandpa left. One spring, when I was in grade 10, Grandma and Grandpa left for six weeks to visit the family in Germany leaving their house on the farm vacant and, dare I say vulnerable to squatters, namely a skunk who made his (or her… who was checking…) home under the concrete floor of their patio.
Now this would never have happened if Grandpa had been home. That very summer when the river receded from its spring flood levels I found the carcasses of some 13 squirrels just over the dike behind his house. When I told Grandpa about it, I surmised that they must have drowned in the water and washed up on the dike, to which Grandpa replied, “No they didn’t, that’s where I threw all the squirrels I shot off my bird feeder over the winter.” Oh.
Yes Grandpa was a good shot and had few qualms about protecting the resident birds, and dare I say, the olfactory integrity of his home. This skunk’s days were numbered from the moment he made his fateful decision to take up residence.
My brother Sam was home that spring and it was I who pointed out the fact that a skunk had moved into Grandma and Grandpa’s house and that it was practically our duty to “take care of it.” (That’s like farm mafia talk for, “Let’s kill that trespassing rodent!”) Of course, killing a skunk is challenging; killing a skunk that is lodged under a slab of concrete is quite another.
The reason I know that it was spring when this adventure took place is that there was just a bit of snow left on the ground and the river was high. The reason I remember what year it was is that in 1996 the river almost made it all the way around the dike turning the farm into an island (an ominous foreshadowing of the “Flood of the Century” in 1997 that destroyed thousands of homes in the Red River Basin.) This is a critical piece of trivia too, because the high water just over the dike from Grandma’s house provided the solution to our challenge.
We borrowed one of dad’s 3-inch water pumps which had been dutifully pumping water out of the dike and simply reversed the process now pumping water from the river into the dike and directly into the front door of Pepé “your-days-are-numbered” Le Pew. That poor skunk. Deluged and half drowned he surfaced gasping for air took a look around and right up the barrel of a 12-gauge shotgun and decided to take his chances in his fast-flooding home.
Now it was only a matter of time until the skunk decided to make a run for it – and we knew it – so in addition to the shotgun, we had a sniper with a .22 on the roof of the patio and had set up some loose chicken wire from the corner of the house so that if the skunk made a run for it we could direct its path. Eventually he did run out and settled in the corner of the house. This posed our next challenge, we were pretty sure that the gratitude Grandpa would feel for our taking care of the rodent problem would be rather overshadowed by the fragrance that accompanies a dead skunk. We had to get that thing to move so we got a very (very) long branch and gently encouraged it away from the home. And when the skunk responded in kind, in the manner that skunks do, we turned the hose on it in proper riot police fashion.
Eventually he made the inevitable and fateful decision to make a run for it.
Now here’s the interesting thing about skunks, (how can I put this tenderly?) they stink, particularly if they are shot in the hindquarters. Made no mistake about it, that skunk had his revenge. The smell was such that while we were boating some half kilometre from home on the swollen Red River, we could still smell the skunk so strongly that we could taste it. We could taste it.
Now please don’t inundate my inbox with animal welfare concerns. I grew up on a farm where death and life were just a little bit different from in the big city. There is a point to all of this, a spiritual point if you can imagine! And here it is, sin stinks and requires a tremendous amount of work to evacuate. You know people are often quite dense, they willfully align themselves with the enemy and find themselves in places they were never meant to be. But if God has taught me anything in this past year it is that “your sins shall surely find you out” and when they do, don’t fight the process, it is necessary even if it is painful.
Oh that our kids would learn this truth! What pain they would avoid! That is why we have to be ruthless with sin in our homes, not ruthless to the person, but ruthless to exterminate the sin. Go ahead and read this story to your kids before bed (maybe just the boys?) and ask them if they have any skunks that need extradition. If they do, help them deal with them before those suckers get married and have babies!