This is going to be a three part series. Look forward to more to come.
Nearly thirty years ago I had my first experience with a skunk, but not my last by any means.
We were at a ranch near Duck Creek, Utah. For those who have never been to the area, you are missing out. Green pine forests with outcroppings of aspen, pink bluffs rising out of nowhere, ice cold streams full of fish, grass bending in the breeze as dragonflies flit around the reeds.
I love my family reunions. We used to do them annually, but as the families have gotten larger and more spread out, we now do them every other year. Makes me sad, but I understand the reasons.
This is one of the earliest family reunions I remember. I don't know exactly my age. I have no concept of time. Really. Ask my wife. I remember events without a framework of dates, years, and other such nonsense. My memories are vivid. I can pull up smells and sensations from when I was two or so, but dates and my brain are like oil and water. They just don't mix. I can sometimes place an event in a rough timeframe due to location. We moved around a lot, so I know Hurricane events were between ages 0-6, while Lousiana events were 6ish-10ish/14ish. I am going to guess I was between 3 and 5.
I have always been an odd kid. I know, big surprise, right? I have learned to interact with people publicly without them seeing the crazy bubbling and seething just below the surface. This was not always the case as a child. I made up stories in my head and talked to myself. I would wander off, captivated by a bit of fluff floating on the breeze. I would sit for hours making up worlds where I was the size of an ant and had to cross huge deserts of tile or forests of shag carpet. Poor weird little Charlie, but I had fun.
Anyway...way off track now. Back to the ranch and my family reunion. I spent a big part of the day climbing rocks and playing with sticks or watching the water strider bugs glide so easily across one of the pond's clear surface.
Seriously, have you seen these things? They stand on water and flit around in all directions in seconds, like humming birds, leaving little ripples in their wake. I could watch them forever, my mind rolling around the grace of their impossible movements. I imagine that there are similar creatures gliding along the thin membranes between realities, unseen, but for their ripples of energy that seeps into our cosmos. Yeah. I'm a nerd and a scifi writer. Deal with it!
I came back to the main hang out area in front of the largest cabin after such adventures and found no one there. I wondered where everyone would go in the middle of a perfect day.
Apparently a skunk had wandered into the middle of the ranch. My family skattered, cousins screaming, adults herding them to safety, a great panicked mess. They gathered in the kitchen and dining room indoors to weather the storm and wait out the little creature.
I wandered into the cabin after the initial panic. Someone had noticed that I wasn't amidst the refugees, so, as soon as I entered, someone asked where I had been and if I had seen the skunk. No doubt they hoped I would tell them that the skunk was gone.
Me: I was outside, petting the kitty.
Them: What kitty?
Me: The black and white kitty that lives under the cabin.
Them: *shocked silence*
Me: It was nice. Why is everyone inside?
Them: Do you mean you pet the skunk? *everyone backing away from me like I'm diseased*
Me: No. It was a kitty (I don't think I knew what a skunk was).
Them: Charlie pet the skunk! Did you get sprayed? *further backing away*
Me: No! It was a kitty! A nice little kitty!
Them: Sure it was...
*some brave soul stepped forward to sniff me and make sure I didn't get sprayed*
Brave Soul: Sniff. He's good.
Them: *everyone sighs in relief and then begins to torment me for petting a skunk for the rest of my life*
I'm very good with animals...and babies. For some reason they love me. I have heard "she never likes strangers, he never warms up to people that fast, she never holds still for anyone, he usually only does that trick for me, I've never seen her smile like that with anyone she didn't know" and similar stuff a million times. I don't know exactly what it is, but babies and animals just seem to connect with me. I once talked a kitten off a telephone pole by meowing to it. I've calmed crazy dogs down and gotten them to sleep on my lap when their owners said they wouldn't even let me pick them up. I do this one handed clapping thing that is like hypnotism for babies. They can't get enough of it.
The point is I've denied that I pet the skunk for years. I used to get so angry as everyone teased me about it. I would yell and scream that it didn't happen.
I deny it no longer. I am proud of my connection to animals and small humans. I did it! I pet that skunk!
I pet a wild skunk and didn't get sprayed! Can you say you've done that? I doubt it. Jealous much? I think so.