January 27, 2023
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We ran over a skunk the other night.

My wife, her former judicial honor who still wields authority in my direction even if she is no longer officially invested with such, would say, “What’s with the ‘we,’ Bucko? You did that, not me.”

Well, she was in the car. Yes, I was driving. But I maintain that since the beast was in the middle of the lane, the middle of my lane, as he waddled across the road, the only proper course for the captain of any automotive ship was to take him out. Dead on. Very bad things happen when you swerve in such a situation. So I, or we (my wife being a startled and quickly wide awake accomplice), nailed him.

We were heading home from a particularly poignant time with dear friends. The highway was long, empty (well, mostly), and dark. Gas prices have meant that I’ve been reduced more often than usual to driving my wife’s minivan. It’s a very utilitarian and useful vehicle, presently in much demand, I hear. But it is not a manly vehicle, such as, for example, my truck. If that’s a sexist comment, I feel terrible about it.

But the practical point is that the minivan is, by design, low to the ground, and skunks, though lowly creatures in many ways, are not low enough to the ground. He or she (I’m not really sexist at all, you see) might have just barely escaped my pickup under-carriage, though I doubt it. But we were in the van. No chance. In the millisecond when I thought a miracle might have happened and the skunk had perhaps done a very un-skunk-like thing and ducked, well, no.

Kerthump! Bump! Bumpety-bump! Goodbye skunk.

Then came the smell.

I didn’t have time to take a rear-view look for a carcass. The multiple bumps, rather than one significant thunk! led me to believe that he was not impaled in our vehicle’s grill. (We once had a pheasant as a temporary hood ornament.) I felt no deep need to turn around and officiate at a burial.

I’ve not done the research to know if skunks who die violently automatically spray as their teeny-weeny brains and their sphincters cease communication. I’ll look it up later.

But our association with that skunk was, I assume, as deadly as it was brief. All the ill-fated beast did was to brush up quite quickly and uncomfortably beneath the minivan’s low under-carriage. And that was enough. For death. And for a distinctly skunk-ish odor.

If the skunk actually sprayed, we weren’t around long enough to catch much of it. But just an incredibly speedy brush-up produced a malodorous aroma that took miles to shake off.

There is, dear readers, a lesson in this. In its eau de parfum essence, the moral is “If you don’t wish to stink, don’t snuggle up to skunks!” It really doesn’t take a long association with one before you begin to acquire its odor.

Practical illustrations and warnings abound. You can quickly supply some of your own, but here are a few of mine.

I’m thankful for people of good will who work within to try to improve them, but our two major political parties, especially at the highest levels, seem determined to reward lunacy or cowardice (pick the mix you prefer) and have little place for prominent candidates who display wisdom, courage, and integrity—and don’t leave a distinct aroma in their wake. Non-stinkers in either party’s national arena will pay a heavy political price. Pay it or stink? Sometimes the choice is that stark in politics—and in more than a few other venues.

Surround yourself at work or business with those whose only real desire is for power or “success”? Enthrone as heroes loud “stars” whose “values” are of the lowest sort? Trade integrity for advancement? Ditch good morals for pleasure or just popularity? How much of that stinkiness can we partake in and not begin to exude a tell-tale scent ourselves?

In our homes, our workplaces, our play-placesand our hearts—we need to take care. Our incredibly gracious Lord will help us, forgive us, lead us. What our King desires for us is our highest good. He wants us, in all of the arenas of our lives, to honor him with “the sweet scent,” the “exquisite fragrance,” of those whose lives are quietly but truly devoted to Christ (see 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 and its various translations).

That’s a far higher calling than just not stinking. But asking God for help not to become stinkers is certainly a good start. And, be not deceived, even now many, maybe most, people know a stinker when they smell one.

Full disclosure: One skunk was harmed before the writing of this column.

Curtis K. Shelburne

Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

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