Sara Morris Swetcharnik

More Skunks

By Sara Morris Swetcharnik

The night was filled with the incessant shrill scream of cicadas. The cicadas, which climb out of the sandy soil and attach to any rough surface while molting, had been attracted to the light in the tent and had covered it within and without. Gloria needed to go to the bathroom. She picked up a lantern, opened the flap of the tent and paused. All around her were tiny eyes reflecting bright green in the lantern's light. Skunks! She jumped on a chair.

The mother skunk was beautiful. Her white bushy tail was carried high. She raised her long snout to sniff the air and then stepped into the circle of the lantern light. A white band ran down her black furry neck, where it split into two parallel stripes. Behind her were five small skunks whose bright green eyes also peered up at Gloria. The skunk kits took the cue, raised their tails and followed. Then the whole skunk family proceeded to clean the cicadas off the tent, jumping to reach the ones higher up the sides. After they left, Gloria climbed down from the chair and announced, "Well, I guess we scared them away."

Eventually the humans and skunks became comfortable with each other. It became an evening ritual for the skunk family to visit. When the skunks arrived, they would first sniff the ankles of the anthropologists who were sitting around a table playing cards, then they would go about the business of cleaning up the cicadas, and then they would leave.

(Based on field experiences of anthropologists George and Gloria Hasemann.)