[Page 196] A single drop of this disgusting secretion on the clothes is enough to scent the whole garment, and it is almost impossible to rid the tainted fabric from the odor.
It is extremely acrid in quality, and if a very small quantity fall upon the eyes, it is very apt to produce permanent blindness.
Dogs, in their first experiences with the skunk, are frequently thus blinded, and there are well authenticated instances of human beings who have been deprived of their sight through their close proximity to an infuriated skunk.
The writer, in his extreme youth, learned, through dear experience, the putrid qualities of this noisome quadruped. It was on one bright Sunday, in New England, and he was out in his Sunday clothing, gathering wild strawberries. He suddenly discovered a pretty little playful animal with bushy tail, romping in the grass near him. The creature was seemingly gentle, and showed no inclination to run away, and the pet-loving nature of the writer prompted an irresistible desire to capture so pretty a creature. Encouraged by its gentle manner, he eagerly ran towards the tempting prize, and grasping it by the bushy tail, which the animal had raised perpendicularly, as if for a handle, the pretty creature was locked [Page 197] in the affectionate embrace of its youthful admirer. But alas! he soon repented his rashness, and the treacherous “pet” was quickly flung away leaving its victim in such a foul state of overwhelming astonishment as can be more easily imagined than described.
Every article of clothing worn on that eventful Sunday had to be buried, and it took weeks of Sundays before the odor could be thoroughly eradicated from the hair and skin of the individual who wore those Sunday garments. After this adventure, the youth became more cautious with respect to pretty little playful animals, with black and white fur and bushy tails.
There is hardly a farmer in the country but what has had some amusing or serious experience with the skunk, and almost every trapper has, at one time or another, served as a target for his shooting propensities. Natural histories are replete with anecdotes of which this animal is the mephitic hero, and volumes might be filled to the glory of his strong-smelling qualities.
Perhaps it is through the prejudice of the writer that he cannot enthusiastically recommend the skunk as a domestic pet; but it is nevertheless asserted, on good authority, that these animals, when reared from the young, become very interesting and playful in the household, and completely shut down on their objectionable faculties.
Our illustration gives a very good idea of the animal, and it is so unlike any other creature that a further description will not be necessary. The prevailing colors are white and black; but these vary much in proportion, the animal sometimes being almost totally white, or altogether black. The fur is long, and comparatively coarse, being intermixed with long, glossy hairs, and is most valuable in the black animal. The body of the creature is about a foot and a half in length, exclusive of the tail, which adds about fourteen inches more.