Sara Morris Swetcharnik


By Sara Morris Swetcharnik

One day about twenty years ago, George and his research team were sitting by a campfire in a grove of giant wild fig trees along the Sulaca River. This was the last camp before Gloria joined the group; George was still a bachelor. George explained the situation this way: "If you can imagine what it is like for a bunch of guys to be together for months with no TV-- just drinking, playing cards, and telling the same boring stories... then a family of skunks walked by and of course the guys began to dare each other to catch one.

"Oh hell, I can do it." George had finally said.

"No you can't."

"Of course I can."

George dressed with thick gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and glasses. The forked roots of the giant fig trees provided lots of places for a small skunk to hide, but finally he cornered one. The skunk looked up at George. He uttered a short snort of alarm: his head went down and his tail went up. George could not imagine that this little fellow could produce very much spray. But suddenly, he could not see anything but lumpy green-yellow stuff streaming down his glasses. It was very stinky. Contemplating his situation, George figured he couldn't get any stinkier than he was already. So he picked up the baby skunk, put him in a nylon sack and then put the sack in a bucket. After he had thoroughly bathed and thrown his clothes out, George's friends began to offer suggestions to rid him of the odor. Everyone agreed that tomatoes would cure the odor, that the tomatoes should be thoroughly rotten, and that they should be rubbed all over his body. They offered to help find the oldest tomatoes possible. Then all of them kept their distance for several days. When George released the skunk he got sprayed again, but it didn't make much difference since he still stunk.

(Based on field experiences of anthropologist George Hasemann.)