My friend has a house on a large, rural lot on the outskirts of a northern Ontario town. He spends a good deal of time hunting, trapping, and disposing of the various critters that also inhabit his property. Whenever we visit, it’s comical to watch him stalking his prey, regardless of its size.
Black flies, mosquitoes, deer flies, and assorted other pesky bugs are pursued if they’re inside the house, and swatted if he can catch them. And he does kill a goodly number; we’ve all seen the splatters left on the window panes.
He always tells his wife to wash them off, but after a raised-eyebrow glance from her, he ends up doing that job himself.
Mice and chipmunks are trapped or poisoned when they become a nuisance, particularly if they nest in the garage (which adjoins the house) or the workshed (which accommodates tools and lawn equipment).
My friend prefers that his wife empty the traps when some poor critter takes the bait, but she always demurs. Forcefully, not politely.
Raccoons and groundhogs are fond of burrowing beneath his shed. They’re live-trapped as a first option, carefully transported some distance away, far on the other side of town, and released. But, he swears they come back, even claims to recognize them. We’ve suggested he buy a spray-can of fluorescent paint to mark them, just to check out his theory.
His second option, if the varmints prove too canny to enter the traps, is to shoot them with his .22 calibre rifle. This sounds to me like a dubious tactic, even though he lives outside the town boundaries; but, apparently, it’s not particularly dangerous. After all, my friend is a crack-shot—or so he tells us. We occasionally call him Elmer Fudd, but never to his face.
But, he’s probably right, because once a month or so, usually around dusk, he pops one as it feeds in the garden, contemptuous of the lettuce or bacon bits placed enticingly in one of the traps. The reason why this killing of nocturnal raiders is the second option is that the carcass has to be disposed of. Quickly.
My friend prefers that his wife look after that, too, but…well, you can imagine how that works out.
His latest escapade took these hunting adventures to a new low, however—and I swear this is exactly what he told me. While making himself a sandwich after coming home from the office for lunch a few months ago, he saw a skunk digging grubs out of his back lawn. Although dressed for work, he was unfazed by the prospect of being dosed by its powerful scent. Charging out the door, he ran at the skunk, stopped ten feet or so from it, and made loud, shoo-ing noises.
As he tells it, the skunk took up a defensive posture, facing him, and stood its ground. So, my friend went to his shed, grabbed a short piece of two-by-four, and threw it at the critter. He missed, but the skunk must have got the drift, because it turned and waddled toward the end of the yard, tail raised disdainfully in the air.
Trying to hurry it along and discourage it from coming back, my friend retrieved the wood and tossed it again in the direction of the retreating animal. To his everlasting surprise, he hit it squarely and down it went. As he approached, he could see it was still breathing, but apparently unconscious. Without further ado, he ran for his long-handled spade, slid it under the skunk, and gingerly carried it at arm’s length to the rear of the yard, where he tossed it unceremoniously over the fence bordering the adjacent woodlot.
There was no mistaking the smell, of course; but, knowing he had avoided being sprayed, he assumed it was the ambient scent of the animal that tainted the air around him. He savoured his victory all the way back to the kitchen.
By then, his wife had arrived home for lunch. As he came in, she recoiled in horror at the stench accompanying him. She told him to take off his shoes, remove his clothes, and get into the shower. Immediately!
Belatedly realizing he must have walked on grass the skunk had sprayed, he left the offending shoes—shiny brown cordovans that looked just fine—on a bench behind the garage, dumped his clothes into a tubful of cold water in the laundry room, and went to scrub himself clean.
In due time, the clothes were washed and ironed, deemed wearable by his wife, and hung back in his closet. His shoes remained behind the garage for almost two weeks, airing out—forgotten until his brother-in-law came calling.
My friend tolerates his wife’s brother, but has no great affection for him. He claims the man is always sponging off the family—a thesis borne out when he asked to borrow my friend’s dress shoes to wear to an upcoming function.
“Sure,” my friend said (stifling a grin). “They’re on the bench behind the garage. You can grab ‘em on your way out.”
The occasion was a community pot-luck-supper-and-dance at a local service club. As told later by another friend in attendance, no one at the table seemed to notice anything amiss during dinner, or at least nobody said anything. But, when the deejay fired up the turntable, and the brother-in-law got out on the dance floor, it was a different story!
He’s an enthusiastic dancer, this overweight fellow, not particularly graceful or rhythmic, but all the way into it. He loves that good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll, and he doggedly boogied his way around the room. In short order, his face was sweating, his body was sweating, and his feet were sweating. Those shoes were hot!
Along about then, his wife abruptly clasped her hand over her mouth, broke from his grasp, and ran pell-mell for the ladies’ room.
“Hey!” somebody yelled over the music. “Who let the skunk in?”
Women screeched and ran for their chairs, climbing in ungainly fashion on top of them. Men began lifting tablecloths, peering under tables, hoping (or maybe not) to spy the offending rodent.
“Open the doors!” somebody else cried, and several people scrambled to comply.
Although the brother-in-law could smell the varmint, too, he had dutifully followed his wife and stood patiently waiting for her beside the washroom door. The smell didn’t abate. When a couple of ladies approached, obviously heading for the same destination, he was about to ask them to check on her. But they stopped, eyes widening, ten feet away.
“It’s in the ladies’ room!” one of them screamed, pointing past the befuddled oaf. “It’s in the ladies’ room!”
To give him his due, my friend’s brother-in-law didn’t hesitate. Thinking his wife in danger, he was through the door in a flash, determined to save her from the elusive skunk. He found her at the sink, patting her face dry with a paper towel.
She recoiled when she smelled his approach. “Omigod, you’re the skunk!” she proclaimed. “It’s you!”
He stopped dead, not understanding.
She approached him tentatively, wrinkling her nose, then identified the source. “Get those shoes off!” she hissed, pointing at his feet.
“My…shoes?” he repeated, still not comprehending.
“You’re the skunk!” she said. “It’s all over those shoes!”
Which is how my friend’s shiny brown cordovans came to be tossed out the washroom window behind the building, and why his brother-in-law exited the ladies’ room, tugged along by his wife, hoping no one would notice his stocking-clad feet.
My friend did retrieve the shoes, he told me, after several days had passed, but they were never the same. They’re currently resting at opposite corners under his workshed, where the coons and groundhogs used to burrow. And he hasn’t had a critter problem since.
Nor a visit from his brother-in-law!