Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Stinkin' to high heaven...

Ah, spring! When young men’s thought turn to….well…what they always turn to. Those of us older and presumably wiser turn our thoughts toward the spring racing classics, trout fishing, and mowing the lawn. Yesterday, I saw a guy out on his riding mower, honest! It will be only a week or two until I’m out there in the garage, trying to kick-start my son into cutting the grass.

Many other things happen in the spring. Flowers bloom. Birds and bees do their thing. But one of the earliest signs is not the appearance of daffodils pushing up through cold earth. No. A sure-fire sign that spring is near is when the skunks wake up from winter hibernation. They awaken and waddle off in search of breakfast.

This year, however, they woke up and discovered that much had changed. President Bush’s popularity sank to 34%. The winter Olympics blew big chunks. West Wing was cancelled. And those people on Lost still hadn’t blundered into Gilligan, Ginger, and Mary Ann.

The skunks were depressed. The ones who couldn’t afford therapy had the worst of it. As their spirits sank lower, the thought of suicide must have become compelling. But for a skunk, checking out in style like Anna Karenina is almost impossible. First, there are very few railroad trains here and they run on an erratic schedule. It’s hard to plan when to lay one’s head down on the rails when a train may not come by for days. What’s a skunk to do? Hurling oneself from a tall building would be effective, but first you have to enter the building. That’s tough for a skunk since they can’t reach the doorknobs. Likewise with pills and overdoses. When was the last time you saw a skunk in a pharmacy?

Nope. A skunk’s suicide method of choice is to throw himself in front of a speeding car. It’s messy but effective. A driver may not even know he’s killed a depressed skunk, at least until he stops the car. Then the olfactory evidence of a skunk’s passing becomes readily apparent.

The valley along my commute route is littered with dead skunks. At least eight of them died there in the last 10 days, and that’s only a 2-mile stretch of road. When the wind is right, I never completely escape the odor, and I can only hold my breath for so long.

Fortunately, none of them have tried to shuffle off this mortal coil by lunging in front of a speeding cyclist, but it’s only a matter of time. Some skunk, desperate to escape the ennui of baseball season, will try to off himself under my front wheel. If they had thumbs, they could shoot themselves, but the only skunk with a thumb is Pepe LePew. Unlike our local skunks, Pepe had the ability to bounce back after numerous unrequited love affairs.

There’s a lesson in this. If you happen across one of those suicidal depressed skunks while riding your bike, start yelling. “No! No! Be like Pepe. L’amor! L’amor!” The skunks may take the advice to heart and stay well away from your front wheel. For that matter, any motorists or pedestrians who happen to hear it will stay well clear too.


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