Rusty Mitchum

Rusty Mitchum

Before you read any further, I would like to issue a warning. The story you are about to read is not for the faint of heart. It is a tale of two enemies. One an animal, one a man; pitted against each other on the field of battle, both armed and dangerous. The story is true. The names have not been changed to protect the innocent, because there are no innocent.

If you have been readin’ the junk I write for any length of time, you know that I have a time with skunks. For some reason skunks have it in for me. I have lost count of how many times I’ve been sprayed. I know I’ve had to undress and hose off in the yard way too many times. I’ve also bathed in tomato juice more times than I care to admit.

I even named the little cabin back behind our house Skunk Holler because of the varmints. Back when we used to rent the cabin out, a buddy of mine trapped 16 of the things out from under there over a two-month period. Since then, I have killed that many, if not more.

You know, some people believe that animals go to heaven after they die. I don’t know, maybe they do. I do know one thing though: if skunks go to heaven, I’m gonna be in big trouble when I get there.

As long as the skunks stayed down at the cabin, my dear wife Janet did not pay that much attention to them. Well, except when I came home, smellin’ odorous and all. But when they started migratin’ up to where we live, well then, that was different. The varmints figured out a way to get under our house.

I live in a house that was built on pier and beam. The skunks, I’m sure, studied the blueprints of our house for a while before they discovered a flaw in the design, then took up residence. Oh I trapped them out when they’d get under there, and try to fix it so their relatives couldn’t move in after their demise, but they are persistent.

A couple of Sundays ago Janet and I woke to a familiar odor.

“Skunk,” coughed Janet.

I sniffed the air. “Oh,” I said. “I thought that was breakfast cookin’.”

“You’re real funny,” she said. “I thought you had set the trap.”

“I did,” I said. “This ain’t no ordinary skunk. I’ve tried sardines, mackerel, and even Kozy Kitten cat food (most skunks can’t resist Kozy Kitten), and he won’t go in the trap.”

“Well, I’ve had it,” said Janet. “I don’t care what you have to do, but I want you to get rid of that skunk.”

“OK,” I sighed. When she puts her foot down, it’s best to do what she wants. She’s got a mean streak, you know.

I went to my closet and put on a pair of coveralls over a long-sleeved shirt and blue jeans, a cap which I could pull down over my ears and rubber gloves. I grabbed my skunk gun and taped a flashlight onto the barrel. I walked into the den where Janet was. “Well, I said. Do you see any exposed skin?”

She looked at me. “What are you doing?” she said. “You look like that goofy guy in the ‘Caddie Shack’ movie when he’s goin’ after that gopher.”

“I’m goin’ in after the skunk,” I replied.

“You’re what?”

“You heard me. It’s either him or me.”

“Oh brother,” she said as she rolled her eyes. “Hey, you’re not going under the house with that gun are you?”

“You don’t think I’m gonna rassle him do you?”

“In that case, I’m leaving. If there are going to be bullets flying, I don’t want to be near.”

“Good idea,” I said. “Go to your mom’s. I’ll call you when I’m done.”

“I can’t believe you are actually going to do this.”

“I’m doin’ this for you, baby,” I said.

“Brother,” she said. “I’m out of here,” and she left.

I opened the small door that leads under the house. I poked the barrel of the rifle into the openin’, and turned on the flashlight. I made a slow sweep of the immediate area under the house, but saw nothin’. I crawled into the openin’ and let my eyes adjust to the dark. On my stomach, usin’ my elbows, I slowly crawled further into the darkness.

As I crawled over the cool moist dirt, I had a flashback of an earlier time in my life when I was crawlin’ on my belly, sweatin’, knowin’ at anytime that the enemy might see me or my fellow soldiers and start blastin’. Of course playin’ army with my cousin Coy was not as scary as this. Anywho, I continued on my quest to rid my castle of this invadin’ force.

I had my light off as I crawled, so as not to startle the skunk. I would stop every few yards and turn the light on and make a sweep. I was crawlin’ along when I ran face first into a spider web. I hate spiders. Although I knew that there was probably not a spider on the web, my hand didn’t know that. It headed toward my face to slap any thing that might be there.

My hand also didn’t realize it still had a grip on my rifle. The rifle’s receiver smashed into my right eye, bendin’ my glasses, and producin’ a rather instant “egg” on my forehead right about eyebrow height. I groaned and blinked my eye several times to clear the tears.

“Great,” I said to myself. “That’s my sightin’ eye.”

After a few minutes, one-eyed, I continued on. I stopped, and turned on the light. There, about 15 feet in front of me, was the skunk. He was sleepin’.

The words of Johnny Cash’s song, “A Boy Named Sue,” came to my mind.

“Ahh,” I said. “PePe Le Pew! How do you do? Now, you’re gonna die.” (I know, those weren’t the words to the song, but they fit).

About that time, the skunk woke up. Quickly, I put the riflescope up to my eye. You know, objects seen through a riflescope at 15 feet are rather fuzzy. That, and due to the fact that my eye was runnin’ like water hose, made the acquisition of my target somewhat obscure. I wiped my eye with my sleeve. Now, not only did I have water in my eye, but also mixed with the dirt from my sleeve, I had the makin’s of a big muddy eye booger.

With my good eye, I checked behind the skunk to make sure that there wasn’t anything behind him that would not benefit from a bullet passin’ through his carcass. I tried again to get a good sight picture. The skunk stood up. I aimed. I fired.

Good point to remember here: If you ever decide to shoot at anything under your house and you are using a firearm that you would consider under normal circumstances loud, wear ear protection. I had not. Now, not only was I blind in one eye, I was deaf in both ears.

I did manage to hit my intended target though. But, I didn’t hit him good enough. Fortunately, he didn’t spray, but he was not dead yet. Wounded, he crawled into an opening that I had not seen. It was a cave-like tunnel he had been lyin’ in front of. This cave was under the garage slab, and I didn’t know how deep the cave went back.

Knowin’ that if he went out of sight, I might lose him forever, I fired again. The second shot wasn’t nearly as loud as the first. In fact, I could barely hear it over the ringin’ that had replaced my hearin’. The skunk disappeared.

Slowly, I made my way over to the tunnel. I shined my light into it, and realized that I would never see the skunk again. But for weeks to come, I’ll know he’s there. His skunk odor will be replaced with another one that will probably be worse. Even in death, skunks have it in for me.

Rusty Mitchum lives in New Harmony, Texas, where he writes a regular column for The Lindale News and Times. He says the only reason he writes is to keep the voices away.