Skunk Stories

I don't know if you know this, but my in-laws are some sort of skunk magnets. Alas, this is true. I'm not sure what it is, but skunks love their house.

It all started about 10 years ago on a cold, winter night. Carol and Larry were going about their regular activities at home when the heater furnace came on. In that same moment, the house was engulfed with skunk smell. Not just your regular, "Hmmm, I think there might be a skunk in our neighborhood" smell, but rather a "Take cover!" kind of smell. It was as if an army of little skunks stealthily made their way to every air vent in the house and (at the secret signal) all lifted their tails and sprayed all at once. It was as if the very air they breathed had immediately been replaced by skunk fumes. It was - well, you get the idea - it was bad.

Their first reaction of course was to flee the premises. They spent that night (and the next seven) living somewhere else. During this time, they tried everything they and anyone else could think of to remove the smell. They tried the "air/wash the smell out" approach. They kept the windows and doors open (in February). They washed every single piece of washable clothing they owned, and sent every non-washable piece to the dry cleaners.

They tried the "masking/odor killing" approach, which beside the expected over-the-counter odor spray, included burning candles, setting out dishes of vanilla, and lighting cedar branches in black skillets.

Finally, they resorted to the "clean the air with technology" methods. They rented ozone machines and ran them for days. These machines reportedly change the molecular structure of the air, and thus get rid of the smell. For health reasons, they couldn't be in the house when these machines were running, but of course, they didn't want to be in the house anyway. The downside of these machines (besides the health concerns) is that they leave a black, smoky film on everything plastic in the house. Even plastic items hidden away in drawers were smogged.

When they finally were able to endure living in the house, they still caught whiffs of skunk smell here and there - especially by their back door door when the wind was blowing. Fortunately, it was just whiffage in the weeks after that.

Finally, months later, a crew of termite people were inspecting under the house and ended their report by saying, "Hey - did you know that you have a dead skunk under there?" Jason's parents had of course had done some looking under the house before this, but the skunk was hidden in some old duct work that they had not looked in.

As far as they can tell, the skunk had been crawling around under the house when the whooshing of the furnace either toasted him, or sent him straight into a little skunk heart attack. At either of these events, he sent his one last blast up and into the real duct work, where it was carried throughout the house by the moving heater air.

The good news was that once the skunk was gone, the smell was, too.

So, when the whole family was gathered at Carol and Larry's new house a few weeks ago for Great Grandad's birthday party, I thought that when I caught a whiff of skunk smell in the house that it was just some long-forgotten repressed skunk memory coming back to haunt them. However, it was just a day later when someone found the dead skunk under the porch, this time only leaving a (comparatively) minor skunk scent for all to smell. Fortunately, he was easy to locate and easy to remove.

I'm not sure why these skunks like Larry and Carol so much. Perhaps it's like those stories you hear of beggars coming to your door in other countries. If you give them something, they somehow put a secret, hidden mark on the door to show others that you're kind and generous. Perhaps there is some kind of hidden skunk symbol at the Locke house(s) that one of them scratched with his little skunk claws after finding a particularly full pail of garbage outside. But perhaps now in the light of the recent skunk tragedies, all of the grieving skunk relatives will scratch it off.

I'm sure Larry and Carol hope so.

photo by mariusstrom (Creative Commons License: Attribution, Non-Commercial)
Open on Flickr

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