George Bowers Sr. When dad got skunked
Mention either of two very different animals, and you are sure to trigger an outbreak of free entertainment. Allude to either snakes or skunks, then sit back and listen as the tales spill out. This is one such story about a skunk that my dad shared with us years ago.
When our father was a boy, he and some of his buddies would occasionally indulge in a less-than-helpful prank of tipping over fodder shocks. In an age before video games, I guess it provided some excitement and an outlet for a bit of their mischievousness.
Mice, worms, and other small critters would congregate beneath the shocks to enjoy the stray corn that might be left behind and it was not uncommon, according to dad, to send a whole family of mice scurrying when they upended their temporary condo.
On one particular episode, he and his friends got more than they bargained for. Upon tipping the corn, they were surprised to discover a skunk clothed in its black and white striped jersey. Dad instantly sprang into action as he had done before grabbing the skunk’s tail and lifting him from the ground. As long as their feet don’t touch anything, they can’t spray. So “they” say.
Well, either what “they” say is wrong or this stinkster got his paws against something, for dad got a full dose of cheap, but enduring cologne. Just as quickly, that furry perfumer got his first and perhaps longest flight as dad sent him hurling through the air.
Upon arriving home, his mother was not amused and baptized him repeatedly in hot soapy bathwater attempting to remove the oppressive smell. Either tomato juice was not readily available or its effectiveness at removing this obnoxious odor was unknown. At any rate, dad’s newfound aroma reduced somewhat and his mother determined he was acceptable for school the next day.
Unfortunately, when he got there, the woodstove did nothing but enhance his earthy fragrance and disperse it throughout the classroom. His teacher endured as long as she could and then sent him home. After his bicycle ride in the open air, however, his mother promptly sent him back. It was the perfect opportunity to play hooky but he figured he was in enough trouble already. (Ironically, dad later lost his sense of smell almost entirely which was a disability that served him well in the taxidermy profession.)
Dad’s experience with the wild perfumer reminds me of our own efforts in pursuing joy. We often chase skunks foolishly believing that they will somehow yield sweetness. There’s plenty of sweet in God’s creation, but we must smell where he’s placed it in rose blossoms, peonies, and the like.
In our mixed up thinking we doggedly pursue earthly possessions somehow believing that they will provide us with joy. The more possessions we can grab by the tail and stash in our sacks, the more joyful we’ll be. So “they” say.
Unfortunately, while possessions can bless us in many ways, they often produce a stench that is hard to shake. All worldly objects either depreciate, rot, or require maintenance and before you know it, our joy has been sucked out by the very things we thought would bestow it.
We even harbor the erroneous belief that if we handle great wealth properly, we can escape its idolatrous impact. Like the skunk, however, it always seems to get its feet on something and emit not just a foul smell, but toxic soul contaminants as well. The best solution is often, like dad, to send the source of our misery sailing away while we speedily head in the opposite direction.
Jesus revealed the best source of joy and contentment when he advised us to seek his kingdom and his righteousness first and then all these things would be added to us as well. Material blessings are no curse, but we must be careful about pursuing them while neglecting the more important things in life. And we must constantly beware of the mistaken notion that more of them will somehow satisfy, for they almost always do the opposite.
As we remember our own skunk stories, may they remind us of the unintended consequences of foolish pursuits. If we are holding onto something we think will bring us joy but is only causing misery, let’s give it the sendoff that it deserves before we get sprayed. Blessings, George.
George Bowers Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren and has authored eleven books including Valley Verses, Volume IV which is available at Four Star Printing and Shenandoah Stuff. He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.