The stiff stems of the mowed hay field were as brittle as the business end of a straw broom and each step produced an easily heard crunch. I was doing a clumsy crouch toward the crest of the slope and trying my best to stay as hidden as possible behind a well packed and neatly wrapped roll of first cut hay.
The cut field smelled good considering the severe dryness of this hot weather. Blue sky and cotton like clouds rolled slowly overhead and pleasant breeze came across my left shoulder. What a great day to be outdoors and the new summer is producing lots of them.
My goal was to get a look at a ground hog that I suspected would be sunning on the downside of the hill in range of the .17 caliber rimfire rifle that I carried. The grass came so fast this spring that I had missed the good shooting opportunities that normally come in late spring but now that most hay fields had been lowered to military haircut specs it was time to hit the fields.
But I was about to get a new neighbor. Somewhere between the smell of cut grass and clean air, came an unwelcome stench that only skunk could appreciate, and indeed its source was strolling into sight, unaware that I was in its path.
At first I thought about aborting the sneak but that thought changed quickly to amazement as I watched the swarm of black and white nearby. Three, maybe four little versions of their mother where in constant motion around, under and on top of each other and the adult.
I had no camera but my mind’s eye was at full shutter speed as this family of stinkers became a large ball of quickly changing color and shape. If there was a wildlife lesson there I can’t imagine what it was but the sight of this playful group was worth the price of admission.
More than anything it made me pity the thousands of folks who have no idea what the enjoyment of the natural world around us is all about. The sights, the smells, and the sounds all go unseen, unheard and undiscovered by so many who lack the opportunity and the desire.
I’ll simply file the skunk story away, maybe telling it a time or two at a campfire or other worthy gathering. It will sit there quietly until called for, just like so many others.
If there is one thing for sure it’s that the outdoors doesn’t come in out of the rain. To experience it you have to be there.
This week I’ll be in the northern wilderness of Ontario where some of my favorite sights, sounds and smells are sure to be repeated. Close your eyes and join me.
It’s quiet and calm, the sun is just about to drop behind the western ridge, a ragged and wind-whipped peak that swallows the sun each and every summer evening. The twilight glows red and pink then turns to shadows as the minutes pass.
A mother merganser duck scurries near the boat in an efforts to keep her brood safe. Her ducklings zoom across the water like miniature speed boats in her wake.
Somewhere in the distance, its source hidden by the darkened shapes of densely wooded islands, comes the unmistakable call of a lonely loon announcing its position to any other of its kind that care. As one call sinks into silence another answers and then another until it becomes a feathered chorus of loons that will come and go as the night wears on.
And as it does the nightly fire with its welcoming smoke and its comforting warmth will greet tired fishermen. Dry pine logs will burn their way through a carefully stacked assortment of dried cedar and birch and just as sure as the North Star shines brightest over a Canadian campfire, it will be time for a story or two.