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Catching Wild Animals

Cappy Jack ©2002

           I awoke alert and dressed quickly. The whole house was still asleep and I left quietly on my indian feet. The sun was bright early and the few times it met my eye through the trees it hurt. The cool June Saturday morning left dew and stillness in the neighborhood. I walked down Meetinghouse road to the Anderson’s house along the creek and snuck up on their backyard and the swimming pool.

            In the middle of the only open land on their property, it sat empty, as always, while it was prepared for the late summer. Harry and his Father worked on getting it perfect before summer was over. September swims were too brisk for me. The Anderson’s were asleep this morning after revelry, which they always did on Friday nights. I crept up to the shallow end edge of the small oval and saw that Flowers was asleep as well. The little skunk was curled up on dry leaves at the bottom of the pool. I decided to rescue the wild animal before I thought out how.

            I had heard that if you hold a skunk’s tail down between it’s legs, then it could not squirt you. On my toes and in my indian walk I moved down to the depths of Flower’s lair. The green apples we had thrown down the day before were still there. She must not be hungry only scared. I knew this wild animal could bite me but I only thought of Flowers, the little skunk in Bambi. I wanted to release her back into the wild so she could go back to her mother. With my heart throbbing I grabbed the skunk with my left hand around it’s neck and front legs and my little right fist holding the tail firmly down and between her back legs. The little skunk came out of sleep slowly and only moved a little at first.

            As I made my way up the steep slope of the pool I realized that I had not anticipated how I would get out of the pool without the use of my arms. I was ten years old and not much taller than the sides of the pool at the shallow end. I wished I had lowered a two by six into the pool so I could walk up it, but too late! I probably didn’t think I could do that without waking Flowers. I could manage a big piece of wood but it was bumpity bump when the inertia kicked in. I had swung a long structural timber before and knew that it was easier to get it going than to stop it. The last patch before it touched something, the final stop, always produced a thunk, not something an indian would do.

            I stood there as the skunk became aware of her danger and started to resist. My hand controlled her head and front paws.  She couldn’t bite me or scratch my palm up hand buried in her fur. I was forced to press her against my chest to hold tighter with my left hand. Her rear legs started to thrash against my chest, her little nails pricking me through my T-shirt. My mouth dried back to my throat where I could feel my panic rising. I tried to kick my left leg over the ledge and gain purchase on the lip of the pool. My body twisted and the skunk kicked hard. Suddenly, I felt her tail tickle me under the chin and I knew I was a goner. I dropped the skunk and fairly leaped up and out of the pool. I sprang to my feet looking for her – was she out?

            No, she went back into the pool. I hadn’t succeeded but the two by six idea would work for her. Leave it in the pool and let her walk out at night, when she was comfortable. I suddenly smelled and felt the blast against my sternum. Right at the apex of my ribs was a deep yellow stain on my almost white T-shirt. I had always liked the odor from a skunk and even close up I kinda liked it but with the thought of my Father’s certain comment on my foolish action I fled home. With rising panic and sudden tears I burst through the door into the kitchen. I didn’t have to tell my family the news.


            It was the day before Father’s day and Roger couldn’t resist the tie in to the Holiday.

“Guess what my son gave me for Father’s day this morning during breakfast? I was eating my eggs, reading the paper, minding my own business when he burst into the house in tears and out of breath.”

“I give up. With an introduction like that I have no idea”; Tony answered back to the boss, not wanting to guess a bad thing.

“The strongest skunk smell I have ever smelled in my life!” Roger was smiling and starting to laugh, “He got a full dose point blank right under his nose!!”

“What? How did he let a skunk get that close to him?” The younger executive was standing in front of Roger’s desk watching him lean back and swipe his hair back with both hands, still smiling.

“He picked the damn thing up!”

“What…………..What for?” Tony knew Roger was proud of the boy and resisted the urge to say that that was a stupid thing to do.

“He was saving it from the Anderson’s swimming pool. They found it yesterday trapped in the pool.

“Wasn’t it drown?”

“No, the pool was empty. Don’t ask,” Roger quipped.

“He said the last thing he felt before dropping the skunk was the tail tickling him on the chin. When Betty saw him she knew exactly what happened and told him to go outside to the shed. He stood there until he could catch his breath and yell, ‘Skunk got me!’ “ Ha! Ha! Ha!


“You will never guess what my brother did this morning.”  Donna was putting on her toe shoes next to Miriam.   There were six girls getting ready for Mrs. Bartholomew’s dance class this morning. They all knew each other but Miriam was closest.

“Tell me.”  Miriam didn’t have a brother and at fourteen was curious about their behavior.

“He tried to rescue Flowers!”  Donna smiled at the look on Miriam’s face trying to see Marty with the skunk in the Disney movie.

Perplexed she said, “How did he do that?”

“He picked up a wild baby skunk and got squirted for his trouble.”

“Why would he pick up a wild animal much less go near one?” Mimi was really confused now.

“He felt bad for the skunk and wanted to set it free.”

“What happened?”  Now Mimi was smiling, too and the rest of the girls were perked up and listening.

“He found it asleep this morning and just picked it up. He thought that if he held the tail down that it couldn’t get him.”

The girls who really worked at ballet thought that he was stupid to confuse Flowers, the likeable skunk, with a real skunk. But the other young women, who danced with their fantasy, including Donna, thought it was a gallant thing for him to try at least.


            He took off his clothes and put them in the bucket of tomato juice his Mother brought out to him. He had a yellow stain on his chest but the smell went away after several scrubbings with a wash cloth. At least he couldn’t smell it anymore.

“What would make you do such a thing, Marty?” Betty wanted to know what to tell him to do or not to do next time. Game hunter was a new role the boy had adopted and, what was worse, he wanted to catch them not eat them. 

“I just wanted to help Flowers out of the pool. I saw her asleep and thought that it was a chance to get her out.”  Marty thought that it was a perfect opportunity since Harry was still asleep. Harry had thrown his little apples AT the baby skunk yesterday while Marty lobbed his in gently, giving them up for food.  He knew that if Harry were around when the skunk was captured it would likely be killed.


“I’m glad you weren’t really hurt. Let’s go back to the house. Your Father has gone to work by now.”  Betty led her son up the path and thought that he had a soft spot in his heart that was as big as his courage. He wasn’t afraid to help the less fortunate and raged at apathy and inattention. When the old cocker spaniel caught his sister’s parakeet, he blamed her for letting the bird out of it’s cage and then not watching it, protecting it. He lay on the sofa and saw that clever Minka sit very still in the dining room but didn’t intercede until the dog had attracted the bird to perch on her snout. He jumped up when she snapped on the bird and worried it to the floor. But it was too late to save the budgie and he took it from the dog before she could eat it, never once berating old Minka. She was a bird dog after all and doing what comes naturally. But he sure let into his sister when she found out from him what had happened. Betty liked both aspects of her son, the tenderness and care, and the strong stance on what is right.


“What do you think you did that was not right?” Now she would help him make a distinction between saving other things and saving your self. He was smart enough to grasp the subtle sway all good decisions have. Life and death were long roads from the fork of a choice made on the spur of the moment. She thought he knew.


“I wasn’t patient enough. I didn’t give Flowers a chance to settle down.” Marty knew from catching frogs that it took time until a wild animal felt comfortable with him especially after he caught it. He knew how to sneak up on a frog from behind with indian feet, where it couldn’t see him and he could catch it.  He knew that if he held it carefully for long enough that the frog would relax and stay with him even after he let it go.


“Do you think you should pick up a wild animal that can bite you?”  Betty dangled the obvious question to her still thinking son. She opened the back door to him looking at his face, which was weighing her question. Then with a look of insight, which made her feel blessed, he said, “ Only if I’m really sure that I can help it.” That’s what an indian would do.     





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written using Microsoft Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition