Last night was my father-in-law Eddy's 66th birthday and we celebrated by having dinner at Smith & Wollensky steak house in Philadelphia. Not exactly an original choice of restaurant, but given the constraints imposed by 3 grand children, it was nicely suited to the occasion blending the appropriate level of fanciness and child-tolerance, and we got a great, private table in their amazing second-floor dining room overlooking Rittenhouse Square.
Between the taxidermized* moose heads on the wall and my sister-in-law's recent vehicular run-in with a telephone pole, the conversation turned to roadkill at which point my youngest nephew chimed-in that he'd never seen a skunk, except for what gruesome, dead remains they came across on the side of the road.
And it's true, driving around the city and burbs for almost two years now, I've seen countless roadkill raccoons, skunks and opossums, but have yet to see a single living example of any of these three critters which are so evidently present. Curious.
Then it was Eddy's turn. As a 27 year-old immigrant from the Dominican Republic in the 1970s he and some of his buddies had never encountered a skunk. (In fact I remember asking him a few years ago what the Spanish word for 'skunk' was and he didn't know it (mofeta, in case you're curious) because I guess they don't have any skunks in the DR.) So during his residency at a party, one of his colleagues found a skunk rooting around outside and captured the animal with his bare hands and then brought it into the party to show his friends what he'd found. A mix of hilarity and panic ensued, but Eddy doesn't recall the skunk getting down to skunkish business with the stinky spray.
Hearing this I wondered why hadn't the skunk sprayed? Which brought me to another supposed insight I'd gleaned from a classmate in college who was a direct descendant of original mountain man Daniel Boone. Seeing as Daniel Boone fought bears without aid of fire arm, we afford credibility to his great great great grandon's testimony that if a skunk raises its tail to spray, you have a split second before the scent-glands engage and the manly response to this is to step forward, grip the skunk by its tail and fling it skyward to avoid the spray. You can also run the other way, but what fun would that be?
*Hipster bars in New York City are teeming with taxidermy. Last month after whiffing on my trip to Bonaire, I drowned my sorrows in a bar in the East Village which featured some really poor-quality taxidermized deer heads on the walls.