Saturday Snippet: A hunting blast from the past


I mentioned earlier this week that Cedar Sanderson’s hunting anthology “How Not to Shoot Fish, and Other Deer that Got Away” has just been published.

I have a story in this anthology.  It’s one I told more than a decade ago in these pages, so I’m sure most of you won’t remember it.  I thought it might make a nice Saturday Snippet to help publicize Cedar’s new book.  It’s already achieved #1 Best Seller rank in its category, which is very good news for all the contributors.


In 2003 I was living in North-Central Louisiana.  It was interesting, because the local wildlife was convinced that they own the neighborhood. Humans were just intruders on their territory. I had an armadillo nest underneath my house at one time, and other wildlife tried to do the same thing at frequent intervals.

A family on my street had seen skunks wandering around and warned me to keep an eye out (my house, like theirs, had a crawl-space underneath, and we both used wire and other barriers to stop animals getting in). One Saturday morning they detected sounds of movement beneath the kitchen and an interesting smell was in the air. Dad checked underneath with a flashlight and found that two skunks had moved in.

He went out that afternoon to talk to a nearby zoo about removing them (they do a lot of that sort of thing). Unfortunately (!) his teenage son decided he’d show Dad that he was able to handle the problem. He duly took Dad’s .22 caliber rifle, lay down next to the house, inserted the rifle through the hole in the wire netting through which the skunks had entered, pushed his head and right arm and shoulder in through the hole, lined up the sights and let fly in the skunks’ general direction.

Bad move. Bad, bad move.

Not only did he miss the skunks, he blew a hole in the water pipe leading to the hot-water supply. Water began to spray all over. To add insult to injury the skunks apparently didn’t like the noise and sudden shower. Both of them let fly in the direction of the shooter, scoring simultaneous direct hits. The boy was, of course, unable to back out of the way in a hurry, having got hung up on the wire around the crawl-space.

Dad came home to find his son sitting on the front porch with the door and all windows firmly locked; his wife and a plumber trying to sort out the water leak; and half the neighborhood (including yours truly) gathered round making helpful suggestions about how to wash skunk smell out of the boy’s hair (to say nothing of his clothes and the rest of his body). The son’s girlfriend, with whom he had a “hot date” scheduled for that night, arrived soon afterwards. She took one whiff of his ‘eau de col-ugh!-ne’ and informed him that she’d changed her mind!

When I went out for supper that night Dad was planning on buying several catering-size tins of tomato paste and forcibly bathing his son in a tin tub in the back yard. This was a good idea in theory, but was shot down by the fact that the water supply was still switched off until the plumber could repair the pipe! His wife informed him that it would be a divorce matter if ‘his’ son came back in the house smelling like that.

I came back that evening to find the family gone. The plumber had refused point-blank to get under the house to repair the pipe until the ghastly smell had been removed. Since no-one could figure out how to get rid of it without running water, the family spent the night in a motel – all except their teenage son, who was banished to the back of their pickup truck (which had a camper shell), with a sleeping-bag. He was eventually able to scrub down with tomato paste under a tap at the rear of the motel, but judging by my nose was still in need of treatment the following morning.

The family spent the next day trying to remove skunk odor from under the house with the aid of hoses from their neighbors. They went through eleven large spray bottles of Febreze: one on their son, seven under the house (interspersed with copious amounts of hose water) and three indoors on their floors and furniture, which had become permeated with Eau de Skunk. The under-house treatment allowed the plumber to get under the floor later that afternoon and replace the shot pipe.

Their son was at last allowed back in the house, but he lost his shooting privileges, allowance and a few other things for the next year (and boy, did he feel sorry for himself! – but he had the grace to admit that he deserved it). His girlfriend allowed him to take her out the following weekend, but she warned him in advance that he’d better be smelling like a rose!

And the skunks? They disappeared during all the fuss and weren’t seen again. They were probably rather miffed at having their cozy romantic nest disturbed like that. Who invited these noisy people into their neighborhood, anyway?

There you have it.  A less-than-successful hunting story that nevertheless entertains hugely.  What’s not to like?



  1. A cherished friend had a skunk skin hat, like an old coon hat. I lusted mightily for that hat. He wouldn't trade it for anything I had. I trapped for skunk during one Christmas break in college. Needed a skin to get started on. The night before I had to return, I got one! He got me too. I don't really mind the smell, and it's was just a passing glance. I bathed in Dawn soap, and was fresh as a daisy. I eased into bed about 0200 and my wife about launched: "What is that…. oh you got SPRAYED!!! OUT!!!!" Seems every time I exhaled, I blew perfume into the room. It was in my nose, sinuses and lungs I guess. Banished to the living room until I quit pooting Pepe Le' Pew every time I breathed.

  2. I was hanging out with friends in a rustic cabin when a civit cat in the crawl space let loose. Its odor is even worse than a skunk, with an acrid, chemical-like smell.

    The cabin was uninhabitable for weeks.

    Don in Oregon

  3. We had a similar problem with skunks getting under our previous house. We got a company to trap one and take it away. I thought I sealed the hole but more skunks got in. I did finally get it sealed.

    One time during this saga, a skunk "released" in the crawl space leaving the house to stink for days. I discovered it when I came down from the bedroom in the morning to go to work. I did ask my co-workers if there were any lingering effects and they claimed ther were none.

    Another time, while I was working on our water line into the house near the side deck that was over the hole the skunks were using, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a skunk and it started thumping the ground. I set a record for a 10 yard dash into the kitchen door. The skunk fortunately didn't spray (the thumping was its warning to me), left and let me get the work finished.

  4. So once upon a time, our chickens were getting eaten, and Dad was determined to catch whatever was getting them. So he set a trap underneath our garden shed.
    Two days later, I came home from my paper route just as the sun was rising, and as I got about three blocks away, I started to sneeze, then gag.
    Dad had trapped a skunk, then tried to shoot it while it was still underneath the garden shed, but that critter shot first, and for two years after, whenever it rained, you could smell skunk for two blocks in any direction.

    Unrelated except for chickens, but another time a mink got into the chicken coop, also very early in the morning – 15 minutes before my 5:00 paper route delivery. Dad hurtled out of bed and I soon heard sounds of battle in the backyard, so I went to see what was going on.
    The sight that I saw was my dad in the chicken run in his underwear, barefoot, bent over, dancing around and whacking something with a foot-long 2×4 as it tried to eat his feet, Mom holding a mangled, half-dead chicken. Dad looked up and yelled, "Get the bat! Get the bat!" – which I did with alacrity.
    Well, the mink didn't survive his encounter with the bat, and Dad's toes survived intact. As it turned out, the aluminum bat that he brained it with had something written on it: Killer. And so it proved to be.

  5. There was this one time.. I started reading a Book series. And expected the Author to finish it.. I was sadly wrong. What a shame That the Maxwell series has not been completed.. And the author seems to have no intention of doing so.

  6. @Unknown: The Maxwell series is open-ended, and I'm almost finished the sixth book in the series. I have at least half a dozen more planned, although some may not see the light of day through being amalgamated with others.

    Please understand that I'm partly physically disabled, which seriously disrupts my writing day from time to time due to pain. I also have to help keep up my household, and support my wife and other local authors in their work, as they do me. I can't sit and write all day, every day, to produce output as fast as some readers would like.

    Sorry if that disappoints you, but that's the way it is.

  7. @Peter: I can only speak for myself, but I care more about you than any book you write.

    As for finishing a series, I immediately think of David Gerrold's War Against the Cthorr series. Don't let that torture you like it did him.

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