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July 11, 2017 > Skunk is here again

Skunk is here again

By Pat Kite

Mr. Skunk always makes a pit stop directly in front of my bedroom window. It is 3 a.m. and the room now has the aroma of antique poo piles. I plod into the living room, escaping onto the uncomfortable couch. The dogs stare at me. ÒYou tell us to be house trained,Ó they accuse. I do, they arenÕt, and I am supposed to set an example. If Mr. Skunk had a sense of humor, he would probably snicker. By now you probably have your own skunk story. They mate about March and have up to nine skunklings. By seven weeks, the skunklings can spray. Being omnivorous, skunks eat everything, including fruit, mice, birds and their eggs, insects and dead whatevers. If you donÕt have any of these things, your neighbors probably do. Look for the little tunnels under your fence.

I love folklore and I discovered this Native American Winnebago legend on skunk origin. It seems once upon a time a girl was born with snow-white hair. She was very pretty and a bit snobby. Many men came courting, but none were accepted. The pretty girl preferred to look at her reflection in the pond and rub her body with perfumed flowers. One afternoon a stranger came. He was not handsome, and she laughed at him; but this was Turtle, one of the great spirits. Turtle decided to do something about the white-haired girlÕs arrogance. Soon she had shrunk in size. Black hair grew over her body. The only remnant of her white hair was the stripe down her back. As far as perfume, well, that came too.

The English word skunk has two root words of Algonquian and Iroquoian origin, specifically seganku (Abenaki for one who squirts) and scangaresse (Huron). The Cree and Ojibwe word shee-gawk is the root word for Chicago, which means skunk-land'.

In another tale, this from the Abenaki tribe of New England, it seems Skunk once had long, silky, white fur. He asked Great Spirit, Gluskabe, to make Day Eagle his companion. But they argued, and Skunk tied Day EagleÕs wings closed. Since Day Eagle couldnÕt open his wings, there was no daylight. When Gluskabe found out, he was only able to untie one wing. Which is why only half the world has daylight at any one time. To punish Skunk, Gluskabe emptied his pipe ashes over skunkÕs head. This turned his white coat black. Then Gluskabe drew two white stripes on skunks back, to remind Skunk how lovely he had once been. Then, to make matters worse, Gluskabe blew smoke on Skunk to make him bad smelling. That is why Skunk usually comes out after dark. He is ashamed of his aroma and sooty coat.

SkunksÕ enemies? From Author D.M. Armstrong: ÒAs a general rule, any animal large enough to kill a skunk is also smart enough not to bother.Ó

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