What’s black and white and stinks all over? Around here it’s skunks. And there are plenty of them to smell. It’s skunk mating season and that nose tingling, eye-watering aroma is one of the sure signs that spring is just around the corner.
Skunks are normally reclusive, but during mating season the males become very excitable. When they wake from their half-hibernation, they run about lifting their tails and marking the boundaries of their territories. Then they fight over females and in their frenzy to reproduce they also tend to spray random animals and humans. My pastor friend Les once went for an early spring drive. His truck window was rolled down to take advantage of the soft notes of birds and the warm breezes. As he drove past an opening in the woods, a male skunk whirled and aimed. Bulls-eye! The majority of his spray hit Les directly on his face and beard. Although Les bathed in tomato juice and shaved off his beard, it was a month before those of us in the front pews could no longer smell him.
Female pole cats also perfume the air. They do it to discourage unwanted advances. If an eager suitor goes too far, the female stomps her feet to warn him and then whirls around. SQUIRT! I can think of some times in my life when that would have come in handy. Anyway, overwhelmed with grief, the rejected male apparently runs out to the road and commits suicide. I drove over five flattened carcasses this week. No wonder the morning air has been sulfurous with skunk pee.
But then, this evening, on my way out to the back forty to feed the dogs, I smelled it. That first ripe whiff of wet earth and spring mud. Skunk love lingers on the morning mists, but the evening air heralds my love. The smell of spring is in the air. The piping notes of the peepers can’t be far behind.