As with many major calamities, it all began with a minor incident.     
One of my old hens went missing. This was troubling as hens who are old enough to join AARP (Amalgamated Association of Retired Pullets) generally do not fly the coop.     
But it was just one hen out of eight. Then another hen disappeared. And another. Something was poaching my poultry.     
I purchased a live trap, baited it with rancid hamburger and set it near the coop. The next morning, the trap contained a very large and extremely angry tomcat. Success.
The cat was taken many miles away and released into a wild area. After all, he was a wildcat.     
I reset the trap more or less on a lark. My problem had been solved so there was no expectation of catching anything else.     
Later that day I was walking into the coop when I glanced at the trap. I couldn’t believe it. I’d caught another cat.     
But this cat was different. It was black and fluffy and had its hinder pointed at me through the mesh wall of the cage. I was about to pick up the trap when I noticed the two white stripes running down the cat’s back.     
I hadn’t realized I could move that fast. What a close call. I had been only a foot away from the business end of a skunk who was locked and loaded and had me in his sights. Just thinking about it gives me the willies.     
Another thief had been apprehended, but now I had a new problem. How do you remove a live skunk from a live trap without getting sprayed?
Google, the all-knowing oracle, said this could be accomplished by using a tarp. Supposedly, all you have to do is slowly approach the trapped skunk as you hold up a tarp to protect yourself and keep the little stinker calm and oblivious to your presence.     
Ever so gently, the tarp is placed over the trap. The trapped skunk is then carried to the wilderness and released. The grateful skunk waddles off as cartoon songbirds drape you with flower necklaces.     
That is the theory. Reality is a whole other thing.     
I approached the caged skunk slowly, making my presence known by speaking in a quiet voice. “Hey, Mr. Skunky,” I murmured repeatedly as I cowered behind my tarp.  
Mr. Skunky promptly proved that Google is full of hooey. He let fly when I got to within about 10 feet. You could say he got his message across by issuing an extremely strong statement.     
There’s nothing worse than skunk stink at close range. The odor melted the galvanizing off the chicken coop’s roof and stripped the bark from nearby trees. My nose hairs vaporized in tiny puffs of smoke.     
Of course, the wind was blowing in a direction that took the stink right toward our house. When my wife came home from work that evening, she wrinkled up her nose and said, “I thought we were clear on this. What part of ‘no more lutefisk’ do you not understand?”     
For once, I was innocent and had some actual proof. My wife, however, decided that she didn’t need to personally see the proof.     
We became prisoners in our own home, trapped by a palpable wall of atomic stench.     
We know a guy named Lee who is an outdoorsman and former professional trapper. I asked Lee, who looks a lot like Teddy Roosevelt, how one removes a live skunk from a live trap without causing a stink.     
“You’re asking the wrong guy,” he replied. “Back when I was a trapper, there was nothing better than getting sprayed by a skunk. Nothing hides human scent like a healthy shot of skunk perfume.”     
But didn’t wearing “eau de skunk” cologne have a negative effect on his situation with the opposite gender?     
“That was never much of a problem,” the lifelong bachelor replied wryly.     
We’d soon had enough of our imprisonment, so I decided to introduce Mr. Skunky to Mr. Remington. It was a clean kill, a single bullet to the brain. But Mr. Skunky’s retaliation was swift and terrible.     
Moments after pulling the trigger, I was knocked down by a shockwave of stench. Car alarms went off for miles around; astronauts on the International Space Station reported seeing a mushroom cloud of stink boiling upward from our farm.    
Mr. Skunky is gone, but he isn’t forgotten. His memory continues to linger.     
One good thing came from all of it, though. Thanks to Mr. Skunky, I was able to sneak several pounds of lutefisk into the house without my wife muttering, “Gad, what stinks?”
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.