At sixteen, I was already an accomplished solo hitchhiker and amateur herpetologist. That’s how I arranged my first real summer job as a lecturer at the famous South Dakota tourist exhibit, the Black Hills Reptile Gardens. I was fearless and free as only an independent-minded sixteen-year-old could be. I already had a great background rubbing shoulders with wild nature.
After beginning work in South Dakota, I was checking out a small dump area not far from my quarters looking for snakes that the mice and rats from the dump might attract. It was just before dusk when I saw a large skunk, wandering in circles, its head trapped inside a big open-mouthed jar. The skunk’s deadly situation was apparent. If it couldn’t get its head out of the jar it would die. And it was already reeling!
I made a quick decision to help and grabbed the skunk by its fluffy, well-scented tail, snapping my lift straight up with my other hand pulling down on the bottle. It didn’t work. The painfully smothering bottle was still attached, the skunk’s formidable weaponry inches from my face. A female!!
I gave another tremendous yank, achieving the separation I wanted. Or maybe not!
With my right hand fully outstretched from the pull, my quick reflex toss was not nearly far enough. I silently cursed myself until I realized that my unhesitant release and gentle skunk-toss had found me a new friend. On landing, she made a quick turn to look at me then took a few delicate steps away before carefully lifting her tail to half-mast, and equally carefully, shook loose a dab of her potent mixture before fading away in the twilight.
I went over to check out the tiny drop from her scent gland. It was the real thing. I dropped down on one knee, in awe. She had blown me a kiss. The only way she knew!