My friend, Kris Cunningham, had a post this morning about skunks and bicyclists. She rides her bike all over the place, and her most epic journey was from here in Algarobbos, Chiriquí, to Ometepe Island in Nicaragua! She didn’t encounter any skunks along the route. But my mom did, once…
Where I grew up on Cape Cod, Orleans, we had plenty of skunks. They used to get under people’s houses, and if you don’t know this, when they mate they also spray, and while not sprayed directly on you the odor would seep into your clothes and you’d go to school smelling like skunk. But nobody every did anything other than sympathize with you because everyone knew it was only a matter of time before they’d be reeking, too.
It must have been 1959 when this happened. I remember that we owned a 1957, blue and white Plymouth station wagon at the time. My mom was driving home one night from her monthly Eastern Star meeting. She was a Past Matron and a state officer. At the intersection of West Road and Skaket Road she met a skunk crossing the road. (Why did the skunk cross the road? Who knows?) Instead of running the damned thing over she came to a screeching halt inches from the probably petrified critter which promptly turned around, mooned the car and let loose a blast of its juice right straight into the hot radiator.
Supposedly if you’ve been sprayed by a skunk you can decontaminate yourself by washing with tomato juice. While that may work on humans or pets, it’s NOT going to get into all those little spaces of a car’s radiator. The smell lingered for a couple of months.
It wasn’t noticeable after a couple of days when the car was sitting idle in the driveway, but as the radiator warmed up with use the smell wafted through the air. When my mom would be coming down to what we called “The Stand,” our restaurant on the beach on the opposite side of town from our house, when she’d be coming into the beach parking lot down by the toll booth you’d always hear one of the counter girls say, “Here comes Mrs. Philbrick.” You could smell the car a hundred yards away.