Banks County Opinions...

JANUARY 29, 2003


Column

By: Jana Adams
The Banks County News
January 29, 2003

The woman
who cried skunk
I awoke one morning not too long ago to an awful stench in the house and to find my cat running at high speeds throughout the rooms, meowling an alarm with each step — wild animals in the house, wild animals in the house!
Oh, no! Skunks! I thought, as I opened doors and windows, trying not to gag as I got ready for work.
For the many years my grandfather and other family lived in the house, it was raised up on brick and rock stacks, providing a crawlspace below, like you find in many other older houses. I remember one visit in the past when I saw a skunk family — a big one and a couple of babies — waddling around. They made their home under the house in cold weather. Again, that’s probably not uncommon in the country.
Well, times change. The house is now closed in underneath, with insulation in place, and the skunk home is no longer open for residents. When we went to check on some of the items stored in the old, unoccupied house up in the pasture, we found clear evidence, including one stubborn skunk, that the skunks had moved their home there.
Truce. Or so I thought. Maybe it was just a summer home. Cold weather lately, and there’s been a skunk onslaught.
On that recent morning before I left for work, I held my breath and walked around the outside of the house, checking for signs of entry. One vent to the crawlspace had been pulled off. Skunks! I imagined several working together, grasping onto the wire with their small feet and claws, and putting their white striped backs into it – one, two, three, and voila, welcome home!
That situation was taken care of. My father armed himself with a leaf blower and checked to make sure no skunks were in residence before he closed the space up again, this time firmly nailing the vent shut.
They’ll give up now, I thought. But several times since when I arrived home at night, my car’s headlights picked out a skunk pacing along the side of the house, calmly turning the corner and heading along the path. I braced myself, half expecting to find aggravated and chilly skunks waiting at the door. Hurry up, already, we’re cold out here!
Around 3 a.m. the other morning, I awoke, startled, to a shrill scree-ree-reeee sound just outside my bedroom window. Then a stench, a fog so foul I almost expected to be able to see it in the air, filled the room. Gag! Skunks! What is it, if they can’t have their old home back, they’ll drive me out of mine? Was that a battle call I heard?
Skunked. Again.
I’ve looked up skunks on the Internet – you’d be amazed at just how many websites there are — and have learned a lot. Many people are quite fond of domesticated skunks, saying they make good pets, if descented, of course (as a side note, however, they apparently hold grudges and will leave nasty surprises on the pillows of those who have offended them). I’ve heard from other folks — people who are quite amused at the situation — that only about 20 percent of skunks in the wild ever actually spray, and I’ve heard from others that the animals are typically silent. Did I dream that shrill warning? No, according to one website, skunks do sometimes communicate with a high, birdlike or maccawlike cry. Sometimes they stamp on the ground furiously and sometimes they stand on their front feet as a warning, a sort of last ditch “don’t make me do it, because you know I will!”
There’s advice on repellants, anything from moth balls (not recommended) to a castor oil-lemon juice mixture to spreading human hair around the yard. There is mention of mysterious negative ion generators that can be “cranked up” to remove the smell from cars and buildings. There’s even one segment on what to do if a skunk gets in the house with you; there are stories of people waking up, thinking they were warming their feet on a family pet, only to find a skunk in the bed with them, trying to stay warm, too.
Who knew it was all so complicated?
I’ve had offers to trap the skunks, but then you have to kill them, I guess, or remove them up to five or 10 miles away — as you hope you and your vehicle don’t get sprayed — because they are certain to return “home,” according to the experts. And I’m not excited about the thought of shooting the animals (although I will admit to a couple of ugly “it’s-3 a.m.-and-I’m-drowning-in-skunk-stench” thoughts).
So, I guess I’ll cross my fingers and hope for a truce, or that whatever is alarming the skunks camped outside the house will just go away. Should I start pulling my hair out and spreading it around the yard? Maybe my cat’s, too, for good measure. Or is that just asking for the battle call in the middle of the night?
In the meantime, I’m turning into the woman who cried skunk.
Jana Adams is features editor for The Jackson Herald and a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers.

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Editorial

By: Phillip Sartain
The Banks County News
January 29, 2003

Another soft spot
Living in a house with four females, it goes without saying that my manhood is always being tested. Most of the time, it’s just jealousy or envy. But sometimes, it hits a soft spot—like when my wife accused me of carrying a pocketbook.
For the record, I don’t carry a pocketbook. It’s a backpack and that’s very different from a pocketbook. Actually, I began carrying around a backpack when I was in law school. As a part of the punishment for wanting to be a lawyer, you have to lug around 167 pounds of law books at all times.
So, like all the rest of the inmates, I used a backpack to shoulder the burden. It was like carrying around your tombstone with you everywhere you went. As a bonus, the backpack helped accelerate the miserly and degenerative humpback look that all lawyers strive for.
After law school, I didn’t have to carry around my tombstone anymore, but I still used my backpack to carry guy stuff around. And, too, I did a lot of hiking so I needed a suitable bag for manly outdoor activities. Because my original bag was in tatters, I bought a new, fully functional backpack that met all the minimal “testosterone tested” guy usage standards.
After an extensive search, I found a backpack that was appropriately rugged looking, of a dark indeterminate color, and loaded with straps, zippers and storage pockets. Absolutely NOTHING prissy about it.
I was completely secure with my bag look until just recently. I was struggling into the house after work one day and my wife, who had beaten me home, was in the kitchen looking at the newspaper. We greeted and I asked if we were having steak and potatoes again for dinner. She offhandedly responded, “Maybe, go put your pocketbook down and we’ll talk about it.”
“It’s not a pocketbook,” I corrected her. “It’s the ‘Rugged Range Lawyer Backpack’ specially designed by a company called ‘Masculinity Mountain Outfitters.’”
“It’s a fancy purse,” she said, not looking up from the newspaper.
“Look,” I stopped, “this is not a purse. I could go to war with this thing—it’s rugged and dependable and it carries my stuff.”
“What ‘ya got in it?” she asked.
I shuffled for a second. “Well, mostly guy stuff. You know, things I might need.”
“Like what?” she smiled.
“Um, a hair brush, and some chapstick, and, um, one of those little packs of tissues in case someone needs one and a little tube of toothpaste and toothbrush. And, oh yeah, some spare change and a few mints.”
“Anything else, GI Joe?” she retorted.
She had backed me into a corner, so I concentrated and tried to remember something in my backpack that was adventuresome and dangerous. Suddenly, it came to me, “I have a lethally sharp corkscrew in case I become lost in the woods with a bottle of wine.”
“Would that be the corkscrew I bought from ‘Frilly Girl Magazine’ that has all the pretty pastel flowers on it?”
I was just about to point out how you can actually use a corkscrew to field dress a deer when I heard some giggling in the background and turned to find that my three daughters had been in the room the whole time. Sensing that their mother was on the verge of yet another victory for the “Feminine Cause,” they began to dance around the room and chant, “Daddy has a purse, Daddy has a purse.”
To her credit my wife ran them off after giving them all high five’s. Then she looked at me lovingly and said, “If it looks like a purse, and wears like a purse, and carries purse stuff, it’s a purse.”
In an act of defiance and to once and for all settle the issue of my manhood in a house of females, I looked her straight in the eye and said, “Oh, yeah, well my purse is bigger than yours.”
I guess I showed them.
Phillip Sartain is an attorney in Gainesville.


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