Growing up on a small farm provided me with many wonderful memories as well many of life's lessons. Of course, there are a few memories that I'd just as soon forget. For example, failing to look before stickin’ your hand in a place you haven’t checked out first. Picking up an old wooden board could result in a sting from a scorpion, or worse, a snake bite.
Obviously, it's a good idea to remember such lessons. And although I believe you should "look before you leap", I also know that putting your nose where you don't have any idea of what you might see, can result in some serious experiences. Take it from me, I know of what I speak!
Dixie, my dog and ever faithful companion, was the world's best at treeing varmints. Squirrels, rats, snakes, birds, armadillos, 'possums, you name it. She was good at sniffin' 'em out, and I was good at findin' out just what it was she was after.
In our hay barn, Dad had placed poles on the ground, and then laid boards across the poles to form a floor. Since the strings binding the bales, as well as the hay itself, would quickly rot if stacked directly on the ground, this kept them in relatively good shape for the coming winter feeding.
Dixie and I would often sleep in the barn, even in winter. I'd throw an old quilt over some bales of hay, snuggle up, and sleep as if there was no tomorrow. Dixie would join me, but she had a tendency to follow her nose into trouble. Me? Well, I had a tendency to follow Dixie.
Late one evening, we were in the barn when she began scratchin' and clawin' at a crack in between two of the floor boards. I figured she smelled a rat or snake, and I didn't like the idea of sleeping where either might decide to share my bedding. So, I ran over and flip the board up. Nothing was there, but by then, Dixie had moved several feet over and was again scratchin' and clawin' at the boards.
I quickly moved to where she now was and flipped over another board. Still nothing. There was an obvious "trail" left by something, but it didn't dawn on me that it was a might bit too big for your average rat. On the other hand, remembering some of the wharf rats that inhabited that old barn, the trail was about the right size.
Finally, Dixie went to barking. Racing over, I grabbed the board and flipped it over. Due to the ground being uneven, there was a much larger space between the ground and floor boards. This is where I stuck my face in an attempt to find out just what Dixie was after.
Folks, I found out. In an "up-close-and-personal" graphic detail, I found out. I suddenly found myself staring at the business end of an animal that can make the biggest, boldest man alive turn tail and run. An animal that will face mountain lions and grizzly bears, and have them rolling over and over, trying to escape it's wrath. This animal is a member of the family Mustelidae; perhaps better known as Goodgoshus Smellus Awfullus!
Six inches from the point of my nose was the posterior of a pole cat, or skunk as you city slickers would call it. Man! I get the heebie-jeebies just thinkin' 'bout it. That skunk's rear end looked bigger'n the rear tire of a John Deere tractor!
Why I didn't receive a face full of skunk scent, I'll never know. Guess the good Lord looks out for kids and idiots. And at the time, I reckon I fit into both of those categories. Regardless and for what it's worth, it didn't take me long to "examine" that skunk's rear. No, we did not spend that particular night in the barn. I spent other nights there, but figured for that particular night, I didn't want to test the Lord's protection.
Galen White lives in Homer. His column runs weekly in the Minden Press-Herald.