News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists


Close encounter prompts new respect

Take a whiff on me,

that ain’t no rose!

Roll up yer window

and hold yer nose

You don’t have to look

And you don’t have to see

’Cause you can feel it

in your olfactory.

— Loudon Wainwright III

Rarely played on classic rock stations, “Dead Skunk” is probably one of the most underappreciated ballads of all times.

What other song — dare I say musical masterpiece — captures the tragedy of death with such poetry?

“Crossin’ the highway late last night,

“He shoulda looked left and he shoulda looked right.”

Well, you know what happens next.

Skunks have no fear. They figure they can stop a 3,000-pound car by turning around backward and raising their tails.

That might be enough to stop me the next time I see the striped salute. I may just lock the brakes and swerve wildly into the ditch to avoid the kind of smelly ordeal that occurred on a recent night.

I got him first, but he’s having the last laugh somewhere up there in skunk heaven.

The odor drifted into the car and permeated everything inside, making the rest of the drive home downright nauseating.

The car windows stayed open overnight to let the interior air out. An orange peel went inside it, an unsuccessful attempt to absorb the odor.

My suit went into isolation. The next day it went to the cleaners.

The car still stank inside and out. I cautiously peered underneath to make sure the dearly departed wasn’t still there. He wasn’t.

There have been other close encounters, mostly on camping trips.

Some friends and I once shared a backpacking shelter on the Appalachian Trail with a skunk that was living under the wooden bunks.

In a gesture of mutual respect, we let the fat skunk steal any food that accidentally dropped on the floor. In return, the skunk let us live odor free. No one made any sudden movements.

The latest encounter has left me with a new respect for our animal friend and led me to regret a certain folly of youth.

It occurred in high school where we had a cafeteria jukebox. One day we decided to pool our quarters and play a song as many consecutive times as we could afford.

I can still hear the lyrics that played over and over:

“Dead skunk in the middle of the road ...”

Scott Morris is The Daily’s managing editor.

Scott Morris Scott Morris
DAILY City Editor

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