One of the most vivid childhood memories I have involves skunks. Come to think of it, several of the most vivid and emotional adult memories I have involve the same thing, but the two-legged variety. Am I alone?
There was a valley in our neighborhood - a ravine - through which we walked to school. Dead-end streets existed on either side which were eventually joined. For many years however, the path which lead through it was simply known as the "gully". As with most gullies, there was a creek in the bottom and a swamp where it widened. We skated there. The ravine itself was lush with bushes - great for playing, hiding, exploring and that sort of thing. Nightfall was a different matter.
Because it was isolated, and because like many kids I was afraid of the dark, it was not a place to be caught after the sun went down. I remember having to walk through it on occasion at dusk and once or twice in total darkness. I waited for all sorts of bogeymen to jump out of the bushes to get me. But foremost on my mind was skunks. The mere thought of one of these little creatures made me run for my life. They were a real live representation of all that was to be feared at night.
There were times of course after seeing a horror movie when thoughts of werewolves, Frankenstein, robbers and murderers also made me run at the slightest sound. Skunks however were the only real nocturnal creatures I would occasionally see. In such a case I was upon them or vice versa before realizing it due to their dark color. Most parents train their kids to run like hell at the sight of a skunk. More power to them, since I have had to bathe my dog more than once after such an encounter. I wish I had been able to train her in a similar manner.
Now to the CREATION part. I am a believer in Darwin, Natural Selection etc. Let us assume however that there is a supreme creator. Of all the creatures on earth, what in heavens name - if that is where such a creator resides - could have possibly incented the inclusion of this little four-legged animal which lifts its tail to fend off attackers by emitting a pungent odour? This reminds me of the squid which emits black ink to hide itself. Naturally I’ve never encountered that. Why ink anyway? What is a squid going to do if attacked - write about it?
Creatures have built-in armor, strength, speed, camouflage, poison, or just plain ugliness to defend themselves. Skunks take the cake. Much as I love cake, if one of the little darlings ever made off with mine, I'd be the first to say "let it eat cake" and find another desert. I couldn't have dreamt up this animal if I were on drugs!
I read once that only one part of this chemical in several million parts is all it takes to be detectable by a human being. Now you know why it is so tough to wash away - it lingers in and on anything it touches. For your information, there are shampoos now which can be used to clean pets that get sprayed. I am happy to say they work. I kept a bottle on hand (about $8.00) when I had a dog and had occasion to use it.
The white stripes are a touch of class. If it were totally black, more people would probably get skunked. As it is, there is kind of a visual warning. Nature is like that. Think about it. Rattlesnakes, bees, dogs, cats, scorpions, ground hogs (they click their teeth), even human beings usually give warning before an attack. It's a kind of "Back off or else". The baboon family - closely related to humans - use their behind as an insult. Human beings often do the same thing. We call it "mooning". We consider the terms "asshole" and "horse's ass" to be insulting.
Now to World Peace.
How did the creator miss the mark? All the great wars of history could have been avoided if human beings had tails and stripes. Instead of shooting, stabbing, slashing, and exploding each other to bits, the armies of the world could simply have faced off. The only ammunition required would be the last couple of meals. On the count of three or whatever, troops would simply turn around, lift their tails, show their stripes, and let fly. The most offensive collective odor would win the day. The military cooks would be the heroes. No-one would be killed. They would just blow each other away. Turning tail would be the norm, not a cowardly act. Perhaps this is why Scottish soldiers wear kilts?. Maybe Mel Gibson in Brave Hearts knew more than he was letting on.
Right about now you are probably thinking that this is one columnist who has inhaled a touch too much skunk odor. You could be right for here is another thought. I happen to believe that when war is declared we should send entirely female armies. They could simply talk non-stop until one side surrendered. No killing would be necessary here either. On the other hand they might never make it to the front. After all, on each side, the entire army would be wearing the same outfit! YIKES. I shudder at the thought. They would kill their own peers. Maybe not such a good idea.