A friend of mine owns a large rural property a few miles south of Pratt. The only residents are the cows, horses, goats and a donkey named Jack. Sometimes Jack gets a bit loud, but the animals never cause any real problems.
It’s a perfect place to take our camper for a weekend get-away. All of the utility hookups that our camper needs are readily available, and it’s close enough to town for us to get the things we need. It’s also far enough away to escape the city’s noise.
There is only one way in and out of the property. Once inside, we lock the gate and no one disturbs us. There is a well-stocked pond where we can fish, and the Ninnescah River flows through the back pasture into a private lake.
Many nights we have sat outside watching the sunset and the moonrise. With no streetlights around, the stars seem endless. I never grow weary of looking at that beautiful nighttime sky.
The wild animals enjoy the peace and quiet just as much as we do. We have encountered deer, rabbits, armadillos, raccoons, possums and all kinds of night-roaming creatures. We’ve seen owls, snakes and huge unfriendly snapping turtles. In the distance, we usually hear coyotes howling at the moon. We stay out of each other’s way, and we get along just fine.
But sometimes, critter contact is unavoidable.
I will never forget an encounter that took place one peaceful evening. Our youngest was asleep, so it was just my wife and I. The moon was big and full, and we were enjoying a warm romantic evening without a care in the world. As we watched the moonlight reflecting on the water, I noticed something moving at the waters edge.
It was a small skunk.
I grew up on a farm. I have been around skunks many times and have never been sprayed. They like to go out at night and search for food. If you don’t bother them, they will usually leave you alone.
We sat there quiet and motionless, hoping we would not draw the little skunk’s attention. We thought about making a quick run for the camper, but decided to play it safe and remain perfectly still.
As the little skunk began to explore, it eventually noticed us and decided to come over and investigate. Watching a skunk walk toward you does not give you a warm and fuzzy feeling. We sat there like statues, afraid to breathe. The last thing either of us wanted was to be bitten or sprayed by a skunk.
The little skunk walked right up to me and began to sniff my shoe. I didn’t dare move. It sniffed about, occasionally looking up at me while I sat there like a rock. Our little dog was sleeping in a nearby fenced in area. I was praying that she would not wake up, bark and frighten our curious but dangerous little visitor.
Suddenly the skunk went under my chair. This was even more frightening. I could no longer see what it was doing. I expected to feel a bite or have the skunk discharge its deadly weapon.
Time passed slowly, it seemed like hours, even though it was only a few seconds before the small skunk emerged again. After making a thorough examination of my wife’s shoes, it looked both of us over, and apparently decided that we were completely boring and harmless.
With no meal to be found, it gave us one last disdainful look and slowly waddled off to continue its nightly rounds.
We both gasped for air, looked at each other and broke out laughing. It had been an unnerving experience, but we didn’t let it ruin our evening. I will admit that we did find ourselves being a little more cautious and alert the rest of the evening.
Dealing with an occasional wild critter is part of normal life in the country. They might get into the trash or the garden. They might even try to steal eggs from the henhouse. Most of the time they mind their own business unless you provoke them.
RV campsites also have animals, because many people like to bring their pets with them. They might bark from time to time, but they usually don’t bother anyone.
It’s normally the human animals that create most of the disturbances. Sometimes they will bother you even though you have made every possible effort to leave them alone.
Especially when there is alcohol involved.
Given the choice between the crowded, noisy RV area at a lake or the quiet countryside with an occasional curious skunk, I’ll take my chances with the skunk. I have yet to meet one that was loud, belligerent or intoxicated.
CourierTraveler reporter John Shelman can be contacted at (620) 442-4200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.