We live between two very different neighbors:
Neighbor A: Just finished building a large work shed that includes a concrete foundation. He has several trashed Cadillacs, a lopsided pop-up camper, and assorted industrial equipment decorating his backyard. Sometimes at dusk he comes out wearing nothing but shorts and practices archery.
Neighbor B: Mild mannered, middle-aged insurance salesman. He has a swimming pool, a hot tub, and a lighted tennis court in his backyard. He mows his lawn fully dressed and hosts tennis matches two nights a week.
Recently, a situation called for the neighborly assistance of someone with a gun. Guess which neighbor came running shirtless with a shotgun in his hands?
(Hint: We live in Texas.)
Give up? The correct answer is Neighbor B, the insurance salesman. (The hint should have just made you realized that we all have guns. Well, almost all.)
But I am jumping ahead. We have noticed an excessive amount of skunk activity in the neighborhood this spring. By notice, I mean we can smell their trails after they’ve been running around the yard all night. So St. Pauli Girl went and bought a skunk trap, which is a steel box that could accommodate maybe two hamsters comfortably. Of course the trap had to be small enough so the skunk couldn’t lift its tail after it had been caught, but I had a hard time believing a skunk would even try to enter. Regardless, we were told a piece of bacon would make the trap very attractive. (It worked, at least for me.)
We set the trap and came out the next morning anxious to see what we caught. The empty trap lay on its side, bacon-less. We had been the victims of a “dine and dash.”
After that, we went several weeks without a skunk scent so we stopped worrying about it. Then one afternoon St. Pauli Girl and I were relaxing with a cold beer on the front lawn after a long day of yard work. I heard the Neighbor B’s Labradors barking up a storm. I didn’t say anything because I thought they might be eating one of our chickens, and I didn’t want to upset St. Pauli Girl.
The labs suddenly approached their fence and chased a little ball of black and white fur onto our property. I looked down to make sure it wasn’t Yogi, our black and white dog who happens to look very much like Pepe Le Pew. No, Yogi was snoozing soundly at our feet.
“Skunk!” I yelled. This woke up Yogi, so I chased him into the house so that A) he wouldn’t chase the skunk, B) the skunk wouldn’t chase him/try to mate with him, and C) he wouldn’t get shot.
We then ran toward the skunk as it skittered about before slipping out under the front gate. Another neighbor whom we’ll call Neighbor C approached and said, “There’s a skunk in your yard.”
“Yes, we know,” St. Pauli Girl said. “Should I get the skunk trap?”
“Why? Bill there’s got a gun.”
Seconds later, our shirtless insurance agent, Neighbor B, came a-runnin’ with his shotgun in hand. “He’s in your yard!” he shouted.
“What are you saying? Are you going to sue us?” I asked. (With three attorneys in the family, that’s always my first question.) “So he’s our responsibility now?”
“No, he went out the gate,” St. Pauli Girl said.
Bill and Neighbor C peered into the culvert that ran beneath our driveway next to the street.
“There he is,” Neighbor C said. “He’s hunkered down at the other end.”
Bill raced to the opposite side and pointed his gun into the culvert.
“Fire in the hole!” I yelled as the gun flashed and went boom.
“What was that for?” Bill asked, shotgun smokin’.
“I don’t know. They say that in all the war movies.”
We watched and waited but nothing happened. It was unlikely the skunk had been hit by the blind shot, and he certainly hadn’t run out. I debated whether or not to go fetch Neighbor A with his bow and arrow.
“There he goes,” Neighbor C shouted, pointing at the other end of the culvert.
Bill spun around and fired. The skunk dropped to the ground but not before lifting his tail and spraying the ground around him in one final act of vengeance. Sort of an “I’ll see you in hell!” kind of farewell, if you will.
We boxed up the carcass and gave it to the Neighbor C, the largest landowner, so he could leave it somewhere far away for the vultures. Then we stood around and chatted for a while, congratulating each other on our great collaborative hunt and kill. I felt a real bond with our neighbors that evening. But I also realized I should never wander into their backyards uninvited.
Sometimes it just takes a gun to bring people together. Or a skunk.