Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sweet Home

A recent close encounter with a skunk reminded me of a pair of skunks on this same property some years back. Then, we lived in a 150-year-old farm house with a crawl space beneath. The frame rested on wooden and cinder blocks.

Night after night, a pair of skunks ventured under the house. Perhaps our home simply lay in the path to the watering hole. Or maybe they liked sneaking up on our cats and the dog Bengie. We usually heard the mêlée of critters before the nose-wrinkling smell assaulted us. They cavorted, bumped water pipes and caused a ruckus under the house.

After the skunk pair awakened the snoozing guard dog, he responded to their capers, and a rancid odor drifted up through the old wood flooring and linoleum rugs. David and I didn’t relish the idea of shooing skunks from under the house, but we planned to defend home turf and devised a plan.

The next time we heard or smelled them, we’d go outside with the old 12-guage shotgun. I’d hold the light, while David shot under the house, close to the dirt, hoping to scare them away permanently.

On a cool fall evening near midnight, the skunks arrived. Bumping, thumping, jumping noises were the alarms that awakened us. In our PJs, we sneaked out the back screen door and around to the side of the house. A brisk wind skittered leaves about our ankles.

After the flashlight beam made a few sweeps beneath the carriage of the house, we spotted the pair and their question-mark black and white tails.

I cowered behind David, dreading a possible dousing from a skunk in close combat. Our children slept soundly while their fearless parents fought to keep our home unsullied by the night marauders.

Ka-boom! Bird shot sprayed beneath the house, kicking up spiffs of dirt.

Fortunately the skunks didn’t retaliate with any smelly ammunition. They scampered out the other side of the house. We never sniffed evidence that they were under the house again.

Our children, lulled to sleep with a sense of security, had slept through the entire night-capades. We asked them the next morning if they’d heard anything. They both answered “No.”

Parents can be the buffer zone between children and harm. And more than just defending the home turf, parents can create an atmosphere of learning the basic tenets of family life. The family IQ Center lists the traditional basic tasks in life as work, play and love.

Defend home, protect homes, of course, but also create a haven where work, play and love is adequately practiced and learned.

“Home, Sweet Home,” the best smell for any culture.

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