Black and White Charade

The dogs know when there is something up at 3:30 in the morning.  The two of them race back and forth in the house, barking and carrying on so that I have to jump out of bed and let them out in a big rush or they won’t stop. Brodie’s nose will be right at the door waiting for me to open it and if I’m not fast and frantic enough he scratches and whines furiously while he’s waiting.  Foxy is right behind him and they both dash off and sail through the air as they fly off the front deck.  This was no ordinary “I hear something” bark.  This was a very urgent “There is something out there and we are going to chase it off” type of bark.

I let them escape the house and sprint to the back door, determined to see for myself what is out there that has been disturbing our sleep for days. There is no time to put on a coat, so I just stuff my feet into my clog type tennis shoes (not the best for running, by the way), grab the shotgun and the spot light and bolt out the door to follow all the barking.  Immediately I hear urgent quacking, which is not a good sign, since they should be sleeping at this time of night. The dogs were over by the chicken house and Broadie is circling around it while the tan duck is standing in the middle of the outside pen quacking non-stop.  The two black and white ducks did not show up like they usually do when it gets dark to be closed in, which I thought was unusual.  It could mean they are sitting on eggs somewhere, they are hanging out in the ditch or canal for the night, or that they would have been killed and eaten. The tan duck has been broody for months and insists on sitting on the chicken eggs, along with her own.  Her being in the outside pen told me she was alarmed enough that something chased her off, because even when I go in there she won’t budge and attacks my legs while I’m trying to retrieve the other eggs in the nesting boxes around her. If I really want the eggs that she is sitting on, I have to grab her and pull her off, enduring her jabbing nips.  It is quite unpleasant, so I usually leave her be and humor her.  So, something had her upset and she was quacking continuously in protest.  I opened up the chicken house door and at first nothing seemed different. All the chickens were on their perches, or in the nesting boxes, along with about 5 barn cats all tucked in snugly.  I never really realized how many black, white and black and white combination chickens and cats that I have! It’s like a kaleidoscope of different combinations of black and white in there! A small black and white combination skunk was sneaking slowly out the pen door, heading into the enclosed outside pen which was adjacent to Mrs. Quacking Duck’s pen.  “Perfect!”, I think.  He won’t be able to escape if I corner him in that one.  Since there is no walk through door from the chicken house to that pen, I run around the outside to the north, navigating through the 3′ tall horseradish plants that have encroached on my brick pathway to the pen door. They are dripping wet from the rain and have multitudes of spider webs between them.  I had several thoughts in that instance.  One was “Great. I’m going to get sopping wet and full of spider webs.”  Another was ” Damn it, I really need to dig this stuff up so my path is clear!”.  But I dash through the bunches of it to get to the pen, only to find that Mr. Skunk isn’t there anymore!

So, I dash back to the open chicken house to see him heading out into Mrs. Quacker’s pen this time.  Then dash around to the south side to head him off.  He is too fast by now and has figured out I’m after him.  He has disappeared, and I figured that he must have crawled underneath the tiny gap in the outside pen door and scurried away.  I know that they aren’t all THAT fast, so he couldn’t be far.  I figured he must have suck through the 4″ opening in the cat’s house door.  The “Cat’s House” is the old 1940 chicken house which we left standing next to the new one when it got completed.  It is mainly used to hold feed in barrels, but it also comes in handy to house the barn cats. They also get fed in there, so there is ample cat food available in their feeder.  The small opening has worked well to allow the cats access, but keeps out anything larger like raccoons, coyotes, badgers or fox.  Skunks, on the other hand, are cat size, so they slip in easily.  They can look all big and fluffy when they are alarmed, but many of them are as small or smaller than the cats are,

I balance the spot light between my knees, keeping the shotgun close while I open the cat house door just a few inches.  I have to maneuver the spotlight just right to shine it in the crack.  No skunk, just numerous cat eyes staring at me.  Then I hear growling, hissing and spitting to my right coming from the small opening.  I close the big door and run around the building to the outside of the small door to see what is going on.  Mr. Stinky is trying to enter and one of the cats is not liking that and putting up a protest.  Then there is a flurry of skunk disappearing inside, cats growling, hissing and scrambling around, and then 4 cats come flying out of the opening and dash out to disappear into the darkness.  That is when the smell starts.  Mr. Stench must have gotten mad at someone and unleashed a bit of his rankness in there. As I run again over to the big walk through door to open it, the stench hits me with full force.  I again shine the spotlight in, cussing myself for not having replaced the bulb in the light socket that would have made things so much easier to see.  Balancing the spot light and gun both was tricky together.  I really needed to be able to see which direction he was facing, first and foremost, or it could be ugly and I could get sprayed while messing around with the gun. The spotlight in the knee trick wasn’t working well, so I put the gun down and decided to find out exactly where he was first.  I shone the light in and saw nothing. Then a few little kittens peaked out from behind a piece of plywood along the side.  They didn’t seem at all alarmed, so I didn’t think he was back there with them.  I couldn’t see him anywhere!   So, I looked outside again, and still couldn’t spot him. Mrs. Quackers was still hollering away this whole time.  I went back to the doorway, because I thought he just had to be in there somewhere.  I enter cautiously.  Shit!  He is staring at me about 2 feet away directly to my right behind the cat food dispenser!  I jump back out, trying to figure out how I’m going to get him when he is directly to my right and I need to get the rifle in there and shoot it right handed.  I decided I would have to shoot left handed and laid the spot light on the ground pointing in so at least I had a little light. I positioned the gun so that is is sort of aimed to my right, with my body still outside, but the gun and my arms in the building.  I look in to see if it is aimed correctly and by then he was gone!  I guess he wasn’t waiting around for me to get situated!  Haha!  So I run outside and around again with the spotlight and the gun, thinking he has run out of the small opening, but I see and hear nothing. Mrs. Duckly is still quacking away.  Dogs are nowhere to be found, thankfully.  I’m sure Foxy headed to the house once she realized I had a gun, but who knows where Broadie took off to.  Since I don’t see Mr. Stinker outside, I figure that he’s got to still be inside the cat’s house somewhere.  So I run back around and cautiously enter again.  I shine the light in every corner and only see a few mother cats and their kittens. I look behind the feed bins, the plywood and anywhere I thought he might be hiding.  Then I run out again and scramble around, looking in all the pens, the chicken house and shining it all around and find that he’s gone!  I checked the cat house again just to make sure and there was no sign of him other than the nasty stench he left.

“Dang it!” I think, “Why didn’t he go for the eggs in the trap, it was right there!”.  I decided to check the other trap in the barn I had set earlier in the evening.  I saw him in there eating on a nest of eggs (or another stinker, who knows how many are out there). I hadn’t wanted to shoot him in the barn because he was right next to the saddles, so I had set up the trap in there with a few additional eggs in it and thought he’d be in there for sure by morning.  But no, he wasn’t and either this one is smarter than your average skunk, or the eggs, chicks and cat food pickings are too easy around here and he’d rather go for that. He, or one of his buddies, had killed and eaten one of my black silkie chicks earlier in the day.  And he did it right in the chicken house!  There was only feathers and the legs left when I went to close them in at night.

I again double checked both the cat’s house and the chicken house and scoured the pens.  He was gone, most likely into the big patch of horseradish and there was NO WAY I was going in after him in there. I called the dogs and was thankful to find them both skunk free.  A I headed back toward the house, I realized that I was cold, really wet from dashing around in the dripping wet weeds and the horseradish and I smelled mildly of skunk.  After a change of clothes it was better, but now I will have to endure at least another night of skunk watch, if not more.  I will need to block access underneath the chicken pen door,  then remove all the cat food from the dispenser in the cat’s house, collect all the eggs and then MAYBE he will go for the food in the trap.  That will be the plan.  Sleep will be fleeting.  Stay tuned for further updates.



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