By Norris Chambers

             Clifton and I usually killed and skinned ‘possums and skunks and didn’t give it any thought. Of course we did think about the day when the stretched and dried hides were taken to town and exchanged for cash. Cash was a very welcome asset in the middle of the big depression. There were only two months that hides could be taken, December and January.

            It was several months past hunting season when we were out in the big pasture looking for the horses. As we travelled into a wooded area we began to smell a skunk scent. The farther we progressed the stronger it became.

            “Must be pretty close,” Clifton commented, “Wonder what got it upset?” I told him that he had asked a good question and that we would soon find out if we kept going in the same direction. I had made a good prediction. We found the ruffled body of a large skunk near a large stump. It was obvious that there had been a big fight and the smelly one had lost. While we were looking and attempting to figure out what had happened we heard a noise coming from the stump. There was a hollow in the top and I bent over and looked in it. I saw something moving in the dark bottom but didn’t have enough light to determine what it was.

            “There’s something in there,” I told Clifton , “but I can’t get enough light to see what it is.”  Clifton came over and looked. He walked a few feet away and picked up a stick about three feet long, then poked around with it in the stump. “Hey,” he said, “I see it now. There’re two little skunks.” He reached down and brought one out, holding it by the tail. It was very tiny and about as cute as a bug. He laid it down and reached in for another. The two looked enough alike to be twins. I guess they were.

            “What’ll we do with them?” I asked. “They’re too cute to kill.”  Clifton agreed and we decided to see if we could make pets out of them.

            The little fellows seemed to be friendly so we each took one and started toward home. They were about the size of a rat and there was plenty of room to hold them in our hands. There was no odor and we didn’t expect any at their age.

            When we got home the first thing we did was get some milk and a medicine dropper. We could tell by the way the little cats were opening their mouths that they were ready for a meal. Milk was about the only thing we could think of at the time, so we proceeded to start the banquet. They were apparently very grateful and seemed to like the milk. It was a slow process, but we finally got them fed and ready for bed. The next thing was to find a bedroom for them. We soon found a nice wooden box and after adding a little straw to the bottom we bedded them down in the corner of the blacksmith shop.

            We asked my mother if she had any idea when we should feed them again. She thought we ought to feed them at least twice a day. It would be a chore but since we had started it we felt like we ought to continue and see what would develop. When Clifton was there it was a slow process but when he was not I began to think they had bottomless stomachs. The little rascals were growing rapidly and we decided they would soon need more room.

            After a top-level conference we decided to build an outdoor home for them. Clifton suggested that we dig an underground bedroom and build a pen around it. That sounded like a good idea since skunks usually sleep during the day and come out at night to prowl around and look for food. We picked a shady spot under a big live oak tree and started building the skunk residence. We took the same box they had been kept in and cut about a six inch hole in the end then added a solid wooden cover on top. We buried the box with the top about level with the surface of the ground and prepared a short wooden tunnel for an entrance. The lid could be easily removed if necessary, but we felt like it would be a nice underground den for the cats. Then we built a chicken wire fence around it, complete with a roof and an entrance door. Our guests seemed to be happy there and were soon running around the whole area. We had gradually changed their diet as they grew older and larger. We found that they would eat just about anything. They were especially fond of meat and bread and a few raw vegetables. They considered boiled eggs quite a delicacy. We trapped mice for them occasionally and they appeared to really enjoy that diet. They spent most of the daylight in their underground den and were romping around in the pen at night.

            The little skunks were happy and friendly and as long as we kept them they never created a bad smell. As they approached adulthood we had to decide what to do with them. We mentioned skinning them for the hides but discarded the thought immediately. We finally decided to just open the gate and let them make the decision. Before letting them go we thought of something that we should have done weeks before. The cats needed names. There was a little difference in the striping on the forehead and it was possible to distinguish one from the other. Both were females and we needed lady names. We named them for two girls in school, Thelma and Harriet. Of course we didn’t tell the girls and if any one reads this who knows some old women by that name who went to school where we did, don’t tell them now!

            Thelma and Harriet stayed around their home for a few days but gradually came back less often. We didn’t kill any more skunks for the hides. When you shoot a skunk between the eyes with a rifle and a spotlight you don’t see it well enough to identify it. We certainly didn’t want to shoot Thelma or Harriet or any of their children or grandchildren.

            Little skunks are a lot of fun – maybe you ought to try rearing a couple!