Have you ever lived with a polecat? No, I am not referring to some nefarious relative who never bathes and is constantly trying to borrow money for beer and cigarettes. I mean a little furry black animal with white stripes and a big fluffy tail and a tendency to stink things up. When my parents were saving money to finance our home in Hull, we lived in a rundown rural house with no plumbing and an old fireplace. The house was truly bad, with holes in the floor and other places. This skunk had little problem finding a way inside, and inside he came on a regular basis. He usually went to the kitchen to search for bread crumbs but was likely to appear anywhere in the house. One night, I woke up to find him strolling casually across the foot of my bed.

Now there is one key rule about living with a wild skunk. He is allowed to go anywhere he wishes! Trying to chase him away would have had very unpleasant results.

We were aware of his potential because of his encounter with dogs in the back yard one night. Fortunately, no one but the dogs were hit with his toxic spray, but the odor in the yard lasted for several days. So we were very careful to not give him cause for alarm when we found him in the house.

Naturally, we tried to block the holes in the floor and around the fireplace, but we never found the one he was using. So we had almost nightly visits from him. I suspect that he was an older animal who was having problems finding food in the wild, and we were just messy enough to provide him with a convenient source of food.

The skunk lived with us for most of the summer, until we found his body behind the seats in the outhouse. He appeared to have died of natural causes.

Living with polecats, whether they are little fuzzy animals or trashy relatives, takes a great deal of patience. You can’t chase them away without causing a big stink. But you do not want to encourage them to stay if they are willing to leave. And once they are gone, you find yourself missing the adventure of having them around. You can learn a lot from them, especially things of a negative nature. And you can learn a lot about yourself, such as your ability to deal with adversity.

I do not urge you to invite a polecat into your home. But if he shows up anyway, be careful and you can live with him for a while.

Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frank@frankgillispie.com. His website can be accessed at http://www.frankgillispie.com/gillispieonline.

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