Author of Nonfiction Books for Kids and Adults*
*Rated OK for Adults
Tragedy struck Magnolia's family soon after her birth. Her mom and
her siblings were killed. My brother and I rescued the tiny survivor and
gently laid her by the milk-swollen belly of our Mammy Cat. Mammy
Cat's litter was about five days old and a little more mature than Little
Survivor. Her eyes and ears were sealed and her white stripe adorned
almost hairless skin. Still, she knew milk when she smelled it and one
furry belly lined with two rows of nipples was as good as another to a
Mammy cat raised her head and watched as Little Survivor began to
nurse. Mammy sniffed, twitched her whiskers, sighed, and stretched out
to make more room at the table.
By the time all the kitten's eyes opened, Little Survivor was accepted
as one of the family.
According to tradition in our home, which was on a farm where
many baby animals were born each year, Little Brother and I took
turns choosing pick of the litter. And when Mammy Cat delivered
this litter, it was my turn. Little Survivor became mine and I
changed her name to Magnolia.
"That's not fair!" Said Little Brother when it came his turn to
choose. He stomped off in disgust. And when I wasn't looking, I
am quite sure he laid temporary claim to Magnolia. This set the
stage for a summer of unmatched sibling rivalry.
Magnolia came into my life a long
time ago and I have no photos of
her. However, this skunk looks
like Magnolia as I remember her.
Then one day, my dad solved this
problem of one skunk and two kids. As he
drove home from the field one day he had
to stop and wait while a mother skunk led
her brood across the road - Mom in the
lead followed by a string of kittens. Dad
waited until Mom and most of her followers
disappeared into the roadside brush. Then
he jumped out of his truck, snatched the
last one, and brought it home to Little
Brother. Peace returned to our household.
Above: Little Brother c. 1952 aka Ronnie
Right: Me about that same time with another
pick of the litter
Our skunks frolicked with the kittens but played their own game. While the kittens chased tails, jumped, spat, clawed and
bit - the skunks stood their ground pretty much unruffled. With tails high, they faced their friendly foe, stamped their front feet
and glared. If the attacker proceeded, the little skunks would jump as they twisted their bodies almost in a U, bringing the
business end into firing position. Since they never fired, they frequently enjoyed the attack of a playful kitten.
I suppose we will always remember the summer of the skunks. Our Grandmother probably did, too. When she came to
visit she would not get out of the car until we assured her that the skunks were in the barn. Most unsuspecting visitors
scurried back in their cars when the skunks came into sight. The burglar threat was small in our part of the country in the 50s,
but the presence of the skunks brought it down to zero.
By fall, Magnolia and Little Brother's skunk were probably half grown. One morning we went to the barn to visit them
before catching the school bus. The barn was still. They were gone. Days went by and the skunks did not return. Instinct
had told them when it was time to return to the wild. We may have seen them again, maybe not. They broke their bonds with
humankind and left us behind with our memories. And that was the best way to end this relationship.
Since then I have had the opportunity to co-exist with skunk families. One lived under our tool shed in the backyard of our
home in San Diego. From time to time, we would see these beautiful animals ambling across our back yard with their tail held
proudly high. We left them alone and they graced us with their beauty.
The skunks pictured on this
page are not Magnolia or Little
Brother's skunk. They appear here
courtesy of Jody's Jungle. Visit her
site to learn about her encounter with
her skunk family. Jody's skunks look
much the way I remember Magnolia.
Pet skunks are not for everyone.
They should not be taken from the
wild unless they are injured or
orphaned. Babies that appear to be
alone may simply be testing their
survival skills while Mom forages
nearby. Skunks are sometimes
infected with rabies, so great care
must be taken in handling them. They
are beautiful animals, armed with a
weapon they use only for defense.
For more information please visit:
This is my Lucy, a typical pick of the
litter and probably a descendant of
Mammy Cat with an adopted skunk in
her family tree.
|Page created by and property of Deanne Durrett
Copyright 2002 - 2008 Deanne Durrett
Last update *-27-08