Skunk Bustling in My Hedgerow

8 Sep

Today I got up at 4:30. It’s the best time of the day for me to write, run, bike, or any other type of exercise, including yoga. But this morning I was reminded of one downside of being outdoors so early: furry little creatures with sharp fangs and claws are still crawling around the neighborhood.

As I pedaled to the end of the driveway and paused for an approaching car, I saw something walking away from me, into the street. I thought it was either Timon from The Lion King or a primordial drawf because it seemed to be walking on its hind legs. But as the car came closer, the headlights showed me a fluffy white and black tail pointing to the sky. Skunk. It was probably chillin’ under our car as I rolled right past it. It could have reached out and shredded my ankles.

I don’t know much about skunks. I’m clueless about whether they always prance around with their tails up or if they only raise them when they’re pissed off at early birds like me. Do they squirt from under their tales or do they face their enemy, stand up on their hind legs, pull down their little skunk pants and squirt like a deranged man whizzing on a tree in a public park?

I can write with confidence that a skunk shower would have ruined my day. This afternoon I’ll be in St. Louis cheering on the New York Mets (The Mets did, in fact, beat the Cardinals). A severe beating would be in store if I showed up smelling of skunk wearing a Cubs hat hurling caustic insults at Matt Holliday (He didn’t even play). People around here already think Cubs fans are a little “off.” Some would even tell you–don’t believe them–we’re a bit smelly in general.

During early morning outings I’ve encountered foxes, cats, skunks, opossums, squirrels, moles, deer, and critters I couldn’t identify. And I live in DOWNTOWN Edwardsville, not out in the sticks. It would be different if it was like: “Oh look at that cute fox thirty yards away.” Instead, they sprint from nearby bushes, drop from trees in front of me, or are standing so still and inconspicuous that I almost run right up their ass.

This happened with a deer early this summer. I was jogging, not paying attention, just kind of watching the ground in front of me, when I suddenly noticed I was standing next to an unfazed deer. I could have ridden him home. Finally he looked at me and smiled–I swear it looked like it!–and bounded away and disappeared between a baseball diamond and the Children’s Museum.

And I forgot to mention the skunk-sized crows that get pissy when I’m outside early. They caw caw caw at me and pretend they’re itching to peck my face off. They sit low in trees I jog past and raise a big stink about my presence with their flapping and cawing before they fly off, leaving me with a dangerously elevated heart rate.

 * * *

Note: The above is all mock complaining. I even love skunks. I would even kiss a skunk if I knew I wouldn’t be sprayed. But not on the lips. Probably on the top of the head. So, yeah, it’s humans that are continuously encroaching on animals. So boo on us!

“They paved paradise to put up a parking lot”

– lyric from Joni Mitchell’s 1970 song “Big Yellow Taxi” recorded in 1970.


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