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‘Round the Mulberry Tree

Many years ago, my husband and I, being newly married and intent on pursuing  the American Dream of home ownership with the gusto of a shipload of rum-infused 18th Century Caribbean pirates, were presented with the opportunity to purchase my childhood home.  We accepted this generous offer and settled in to revamp the house and make it our home.

While the backyard was not quite a leisure paradise, we made due with a deck, cement patio, and an 18 x 30 oval pool.  We installed a few small ornamental gardens, a walkway and rock border for the pool, and a portable metal fire pit.  Unfortunately, it was also outfitted with a large mulberry tree which, for some reason beyond the knowledge of mortal man, we did not have removed.  Each year, this behemoth of a tree haphazardly released it’s unharvested fruit, converting our little patch of peaceful relaxation into a failed experiment in mulberry wine-making, which may or may not have been conducted by drunken muskrats.  There was scarcely an inch of terra firma unaffected by the decomposing mulberry mine field.

One evening, while admiring the stars, enjoying a few Mai Tais by a peacefully crackling fire, and attempting to ignore the unpleasant cloying stench of the fermenting mulberries, we heard a furtive rustling near the gate leading into the backyard.  Further investigation revealed the noise to be a mother skunk leading her six baby skunks to the golden promise of a mulberry smorgasbord.

Now, a rational human being would have left the skunks to their feast and moved the party elsewhere.  But we were anything but rational that night.  I’ll never know whether it was the Mai Tais or the poisonous scent of the mulberries which initially convinced us to perceive this family of harmless (and not yet stinky) skunks as a horde of invading Huns intent on ravaging our territory, but we struck without thought and our initial attack managed to frighten the mother and one of her babies across the street to a demilitarized zone.

Somehow, we managed to escape being sprayed as we chased the five remaining baby skunks over every grain of soil within our property lines like a cruiser full of Keystone cops.  At one point in time, I was using a stick to herd the last kit out from underneath some evergreens in the front yard when it suddenly attacked the end of the stick and engaged me in a growling contest of tug-of-war.  Thankfully, it quickly surrendered and scampered across the street to join it’s mother and siblings.

We graciously accepted the skunk’s defeat with a flash of our middle fingers and stumbled to the backyard to resume our soiree when the full realization of the possible consequences of the last 45 minutes finally dawned upon us.  A full retreat to the security of our kitchen did nothing to dull the resulting nightmares I endured for the next week.

Let our folly be a warning to everyone discovering themselves in a similar situation: leave the damn skunks alone.  You’ll save yourself a possible spraying, probable nightmares and perhaps the cost of cleaning up all those nasty mulberries.

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