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No man is an island unless hunted skunk launches scent

Mr. Crusoe, there's room for one more if you can stand that infernal smell

By W. T. Block

Reprinted from Beaumont Enterprise, Wednesday August 26, 1999.

As an ex-soldier, I always felt a certain nostalgic empathy for the comic strip character, Beetle Bailey, who is always trying to avoid Sgt. Snorkel and all his KP and ditch-digging details. Today (Aug. 17), however, I realized that Beetle and I shared an outcast status in common also, when Beetle said, "I guess running into that skunk will do it."

It was the year 1927, near the end of my age of innocence, and I honestly don't think I knew a polecat could perfume a person so dreadfully. The day before, my mother had bought me a new pair of overalls and the only pair of red boots I ever owned; and I was wearing them that Sunday afternoon when my brother, my cousin, and I decided to go "skunk-hunting."

The location was in our old abandoned sugar mill, where the polecats had taken up residence beneath a 20-foot long syrup-cooking kettle. My brother and cousin began poking bean poles under the kettle, when suddenly one of the little stinkers stopped in front of me, turned around, and he sprayed me with maximum skunk-pressure.

For the next six weeks, I was "pariah cum laude" of Port Neches. Very quickly I learned how old Robinson Crusoe felt, all alone on that deserted island.

I ran crying to my mother. She took me down to Block's Bayou, stripped me naked, buried my new clothes, and scrubbed me for two hours with octagon soap and a stiff brush. And believe me, I probably lost a lot of skin, but none of the odor, which seemingly has to wear off with time.

Immediately my sisters screamed if I came anywhere near them. For two weeks I ate my meals alone under a pecan tree out in the barnyard, and at night my mother fixed me a pallet on the corn crib floor, where the wharf rats and a couple hooty owls hung out. I suppose all the deodorants ever bottled could not have improved my fragrance very much.

After two weeks in the barnyard, my mother sent me back to school, but my teacher took one whiff of me and sent me home again. Another week went by before she tried once more to send me to school. I got to stay in school that time, but the other kids held their noses whenever I walked by.

I might as well have been on old Robinson Crusoe's island. Once I sat down in back of the building to eat my lunch, but all the other boys got up and walked away. After that, I went out to the stadium bleachers and ate alone.

All of that seems so very long ago now, in fact, 71 years, and you know, I haven't gone skunk-hunting a single time since then.

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