One rainy October day when I was three, I was playing on Momma’s kitchen floor when my father, the Old Poacher, came home from work.
He stepped through the door pushing a broad smile and packing his lunch bucket. He set the lunch bucket on the floor next to the creosote-soaked coveralls he had worn home from work.
A 1960s toddler would have popped the lid off Dad’s lunch bucket in a wince. I wasn’t so fast. I was a 1942 model, and not wired as they were.
My brother did not hesitate. He snatched the lunch box from the floor and disappeared into his room.
Seconds later we heard him scream: “Goddamnit.”
I knew the law forbidding the taking of the Lord’s name in vain. “God” was one of the Lord’s names. Mom and Dad would have to kill big brother.
Brother emerged from his room with a weanling kitten hanging from his fist. The black and white kitten appeared to be a skunk. Dad chuckled. Mom wrinkled her nose, and I took possession.
Over the years, I flittered with a number of wild or feral pets. I recall a bevy of cottontail rabbits not intended to be pets.
My youngest son and I attended Gus Bender’s auction one night. I bid $10 on a buffalo skull and $8 on a bike without wheels.
In the weeks that followed that rainy October day, the skunklette, dubbed by my brother “Pe Pe Le Peau,” and I spent long hours in the jungle other family members called “the cabbage patch.”
I caught cut worms, grasshoppers, mariposa caterpillars and slugs for my friend PPLP.
Mom fed the little creature saucers of milk.
One night I absentmindedly left the door to PPLP’s cage unlatched. The skunk walked out of the cage and out of my life.
My Dad said he hoped I had learned a lesson. The lesson, I finally concluded was: Trust in God but lock up your skunk.