Note to self: Have some sort of weapon in hand before attacking a skunk in the henhouse at 2am.

So every now and again we get some kind of crazed super-killer maniac carnivore attacking the chickens. Last winter it killed eight or so hens and didn't eat anything except one chicken head—just killed 'em and left their bodies there in the snow. Not unlike those first-person shooter video games some people like to play, without all the feathers.

Needless to say, Jess and I were not amused.

We tried one thing and another to protect our egg-laying machines—basically, everything you'd try if you were in our shoes. No dice. These killers, whether a skunk, weasel, martin, shark, or whatever, have been genetically selected by generations of their dumber forebears being killed off by angry farmers. They're now too smart for people who don't lace their chicken yard with hair-trigger land mines, or something really strong like ...well, you fill in the blank.

Hens are dumber than rocks, so they never make a peep as they're being ruthlessly slaughtered; and since at present they're 200 feet down the hill from our super-insulated house, we never hear anything except the furious exclamations and loud teeth-gnashings when we find 'em.



Fast forward to summertime. Jess and I are sleeping in the upstairs kids' room that faces roughly toward the chicken yard (the room with the loft, bathroom, and super-cool princess bed nook I'll tell you about sometime), since my parents were visiting and we donated the Perilously Comfy Bed to them. The window's open since it's hot. Cue 2am, Doug out cold with his mouth open, and anguished squawkings emerging from the henhouse.

Jess: "Doug!"

Doug:

Jess: "Doug!"

"Mmmmgnnngh?"

"Something's attacking the chickens in the shoop."

Doug's on his feet before he's awake, because said squawkings have penetrated his dim consciousness. He throws on a bathrobe and 600-year-old skater shoes, and bombs down the hill toward the shoop yelling ominous threats such as "Hey! Hey! Get out of our shoop, you ...hey!" He flings open the door, flips on the light, and smells—skunk.

Doug realizes he's empty-handed.

The shoop echoes with squawking, flapping chickens. The one is still making a noise that says "I'm dying," and it's a pretty frightening noise, I think. I lift the door to the chicken bin and chickens flap everywhere. Something's scooting around in there. I grab a hoe handle (or something) and jab it into the chicken-filled darkness, trying to make whatever-it-is loose its grip our expensive galline egg-machine. I see something black slip along the back corner and jab at it furiously, yelling for real this time. I want to injure it. I think briefly of my guns up at the house, but everything there would remove the side of the entire shoop, and they're up there and I'm down here.

The chicken stops squawking, and chickens and feathers settle down everywhere. The Thing is still scrabbling around in there, but it's let go of its prey. I stand there panting, full of adrenaline, wandering what I should do now. I open up the door and step back out into the night, looking around for something to fend off the Spray of Death. Nothing, of course. And as I stand there, a small black-and-white head emerges from the little hole in the chicken-bin where we reach in to flip on the light. The skunk may or may not see me, but its black and white body slides out of the hole and down it jumps, It waddles away around the side of the shoop, taunting me, and disappears.

When I came back up to the house, Jessica wouldn't let me in. She stripped me off right there on the back porch and made me wash down with a cold washcloth drenched with her special hydrogen peroxide de-skunkifier. Then I put on clean clothes and we went back to bed.

Later we put a lock on the people door and a guillotine-door on the chicken entrance in back. And the skunk hasn't been back.

Yet.

Every so often I'll send you a little story like this—true, of course; would I lie to you?—from our lives up here on our mountain homestead. There's lots more on my website, and of course I'd love for you to drop by and take a look at my work.

But if not, you can enjoy the stories, and spread the love.


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