This past spring, we had a family of groundhogs move into our barn and start tunneling in and around the foundation. Last winter we had repaired all the holes in the lath siding and we had hoped to make this barn a dry and safe place to store things. So I borrowed a live trap to catch the critters and haul them far away. After catching two groundhogs, I reset the trap to ensure all the varmints were removed! Much to my surprise, the next morning as I walked to the barn I noticed the trap was sprung again! As I drew closer I could see that this groundhog had a much darker coat of fur, and I could even see a white stripe down his back.
Upon arriving at the trap, I concluded that the animal in my live-trap was a skunk, or better known around these parts as a pole-kitty! Oh my, what to do? Well of course I grabbed my smart phone and asked Goggle how to best handle the situation. I then circled the trap, away from his tail, and using a stick, I partially covered the trap with a tarp. After about 10 minutes, I returned to the barn and completely covered the trap with a tarp, placing the stinker in total darkness. An hour later, I gently lifted the cage and leaving the tarp on the trap, carefully placed the rascal on the back of my pickup hoping not to set off the skunk’s detonator.
We then took a ride to an unpopulated area and I removed the critter from my truck and placed him on the ground. I slowly removed part of the tarp and placed a stick in the doorway providing him a clean get-away. After a couple of minutes, I removed the tarp and waited. It did not take long and I felt very relieved as he exited the trap. I then returned to the barn and set the trap one more time. Guess what? The next morning I was surprised to see another black and white animal in the trap. This one was much smaller and seemed nervous; in hindsight I should have been more attentive! I unfortunately was not as smooth with my approach and the little fellow hit one out of the park, landing his vile spray on my face, arm, jeans and right shoe! My nose burned as the smell populated the air! Is there anything more potent then the odor of a polecat? Well, the damage was done but I proceeded to complete the mission of getting him loaded onto the truck.
Before climbing into the cab of my truck I realized that I needed to remove the toxic chemical from my clothes and skin. I needed a bath, and some clean clothes! With my wife’s help and scrubbing my skin with lye soap, I was able to remove most of the smell and then was able to take the little fellow to the same unpopulated place I had taken his kin-folk. After many days, the trap remained empty and the stinky stain diminished over time. It sure takes a lot of effort to eliminate that type of stench!
There is another type of bath that we can take that removes even more vile smells and stains than lye soap. It is the spiritual bath of baptism that restores us to perfection. However, if we then chose to trap the devil in our heart and continually embrace the vile stench of sin, we will need to recleanse ourselves often with confession and the reception of the Holy Gifts.
I pray that our sinful nature be as distasteful as the wicked smell of a skunk and frequently wash ourselves in the blood of the Lamb. And in this season of Theophany, we need to prepare for Great Lent and have our homes cleansed as well!
Fr. Gabriel Weller 1/18/15