I suppose, of all the smells of country living, the smell of skunks or hogs is the most odoriferous … I was going to write “odorous,” but I discovered the word odoriferous when I looked it up in Webster’s Dictionary.

Of course, the smell of rotten eggs should be right up there with skunks and hogs, but the smell of rotten eggs just doesn’t have the staying-around power of the other two. I have been hit with a rotten egg in the middle of a corn cob battle. I have been sprayed in the face by a skunk, and I have worked around hogs most of my life. So, I know of what I am writing.

Several years ago, there was a rabies epidemic among the Middle Tennessee skunk population. You might remember that summer. Skunks seemed to be everywhere. I would guess, over the period of a week or two, I saw at least a dozen or more dead skunks on the highways and country roads in various places. The entire skunk population was very active. It was most unusual.

I have a long-time friend named Mack Jordon who lives in Chapel Hill.

We talk on the phone pretty regularly. During the latter part of that same summer, the subject of skunks came up in one of our conversations. He informed me that one of his neighbors had killed more than skunks in a very short period of time. It seems as though skunks were acting strangely all over the Middle Tennessee area.

Mack retired from working for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation several years ago. But after his retirement, he continued to attend the annual Tennessee Farm Bureau Convention, which is held in Nashville each year. In early December following the aforementioned summer, he was again in Nashville attending the annual convention.

At the convention, Mack noticed that his friends and acquaintances were giving him funny looks whenever they approached him to exchange pleasantries. It became so obvious that he asked an old friend if there was something wrong with him. The friend, who was a true friend, said, “Yes, Mack, you smell like a skunk.”

That set into motion a thorough investigation. Over the next few days, Mack found out that not only did his clothes smell like a skunk, but everything in his house also smelled like a skunk.

Come to find out, several weeks earlier, one of those skunks that his neighbor shot had crawled up under Mack’s house and died. Slowly, but surely, and ever so subtly, that skunk smell had infiltrated his entire house. Anything that was permeable had to go. All his family’s clothes had to be sent to the dry cleaners for special cleaning … same for all the drapes. All the carpet had to be replaced. All the cloth furniture had to be removed and required special fumigation. His wife even took advantage of the opportunity and changed out the kitchen cabinets.

Fortunately, for Mack, his homeowners insurance covered the cost of all the damages (except for the kitchen cabinets). Mack came away from the experience with a new respect for skunk power.

When I was a boy, I was sprayed directly in the face by a baby skunk. Don’t let the word “baby” fool you. Those little buggers come into this world loaded for bear. At point-blank range, skunk spray does not smell like skunk. It is pure ammonia. It is way beyond nauseating. And it is blinding to the eyes. My hair turned green.

On the day that skunk sprayed me, I was wearing an orange, short-sleeve shirt handed down from my brother, Tom. Of course, those were the days when you didn’t throw anything away. After washing me in a Purex-bleach bath, my mother ran that orange shirt through the washing machine a time or two. Both of my younger brothers eventually wore that shirt. But my mother testified that every time she ironed that shirt in the ensuing years, she got a whiff of skunk smell.

Now, that’s staying power.

Hartsville resident Jack McCall is an author and motivational speaker.

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