In an effort to remain poor, I kept bees for many years. There is an endless string of costly things that can go wrong with bees, and I did battle with most. My first battle each summer morning consisted of throwing stones at the flycatchers that sat on a telephone line above my hives, eating my incoming and outgoing bees.
When I saw the skunk, I knew I couldn’t chase him off with stones like I did the flycatchers. I had a cedar pole fence around the entire house that should have kept him out but, getting up earlier one morning to see what the dog was barking at, I saw him prancing through the yard.
I never knew where exactly he got through the fence, but it was bad news. When skunks get into a yard full of bee hives, they scratch at the hive entrances, wait for a bee to investigate, and then eat the bee. Skunks are also nocturnal whereas I am diurnal. When they were eating my bees, I was dreaming of big honey sales.
To fix the hole in the fence, I strung chicken wire all along the bottom of the inside of the fence after work. The next morning, I got up early. There he was again, nonchalantly sitting out the last of the rain under our patio roof.
After work that evening, I modified my three gates with more chicken wire. When I turned in, I felt sure the yard was secure. Early next morning, I checked the patio. He was there leisurely sipping rainwater from a clear puddle.
I took some time off work that day to stake the chicken wire to the ground and then staple the wire to the cedar pole fence. The next morning, I saw him again sitting on the patio, looking around as if he had lost his way.
That puzzled me. At work, I gave the matter some serious thought. How could he be lost?
Early the next morning, he was nibbling at the dry cat food I put out for the neighbor’s cats. That evening, I hastily added another layer of chicken wire, this time on the outside of the fence. Next morning, I saw him and three cats eating out of the cat food bowl together. They seemed to be getting along quite well.
“I can’t believe it,” I told my wife, Bobbalee. “He gets through the fence every night.”
She thought about that, and then said, “It might be like the Sherlock story about the dog that didn’t bark.”
“But my dog barks all the time.”
“I know. I mean that, if the skunk is always in the yard, than maybe it’s because he can’t get out of the yard.”
“You’ve incarcerated him.”
“That explains why he looks lost,” I said.
“Lost? You’re stuffing him with cat food and bees. He can’t figure out why you like him so much.”
Bobbalee said I should pick up the cat food, put entrance reducers on the hives and leave the gates open that night.
The next morning, I got up early. There were three cats waiting for food but…no skunk. I closed the gates. Then, inspired with new confidence, I went out to attack the flycatchers once again.
[Erratum: In my February column, I claimed to have given chocolates to my future wife on our first Valentine’s Day date. Further investigation shows that I actually gave her a half-dozen one-eighth ounce Mepps fishing lures wrapped in a pink fanny pack, all of which I won at the grand opening of Bob’s Computer Emporium and Live Bait Shop. My apologies if this hurt anybody’s feelings.]
Rhinelander District Library Director Ed Hughes is available at (715) 365-1070.