Walter Wehmeyer and Gerald Golden sat behind me at school, which meant they were a grade or two ahead of me. They were always bragging about something they did or knew how to do. One day they were talking on the playground about how they were able to disarm skunks. There was one sure way to keep a skunk from spraying you, they said. You have to approach very slowly and carefully, not doing anything to scare it, talking softly and all friendly-like. Then you could use a pole to lift the skunk’s back legs off the ground, so the skunk couldn’t use its scent sack to spray you. Then you could do anything you wanted with it.
Later I took the bait and tried out their advice. There was an old broomstick in the shed. Skunks often nosed through the garbage pile in the corner of our yard. We dumped peelings and bones and other garbage there. I snuck up while a skunk was poking through the garbage and eating. I got that stick under its back legs and lifted it up quickly. For the split second that the skunk’s feet were still in the air, the air filled with the most horrid stench you can imagine. I could stand the strong scent of a skunk from a distance, but up close it took my breath away. I thought I’d die, and mostly I wanted to.
Bonnie (my stepmother) set up a galvanized tub in the yard. My sister and brother took turns hauling buckets of hot water from the stove reservoir, and Bonnie poured on the strong lye laundry soap, but it didn’t help much. The Jenkins gave Bonnie some tomato juice they had canned, and made me wash with it, but I couldn’t tell that it made any difference. We burned my clothes, so I only had one outfit left to wear. Several days passed before I was allowed to return to school, only to face smirks from Walt and Jerry.