Skunk in the Water Well

Stinker’s dip in the family water well leaves behind skunk smell for months.


| March/April 2016


When I was 7, we lived with my grandparents in a house that didn’t have running water. Our pump, which stuck up through the boards on the back porch, had a long handle on top and an opening on the side where the water came out – the spout of the pump. To get water, we placed a metal bucket under the spout and pumped the handle up and down. After a few pumps, water gently came out of the pump spout and into the bucket. If you pumped really hard, the water poured out. If you were 7 and couldn’t pump with much force at all, it trickled into the bucket and took a lifetime to fill it up.

One winter morning when I awoke, I could hear tense voices in the kitchen, discussing something I couldn’t make out. I had to know right then what was happening. I opened the bedroom door to find all the lights in the rest of the house turned on. I hurried, shivering, to the kitchen, warm feet against the cold floor, anxious to discover what was going on. The wood fire in the cookstove made the room cozy and warm.

My grandmother and grandfather sat at the kitchen table, looking more worried than usual. As I reached for the water pail, ready for my first drink of the day, my grandmother saw me with a glass in my hand ready to grab the dipper.

“Just take a sip,” Grandma said. “We have to be careful how much water we drink for a while. A skunk fell in the well last night, and the only water we have is what’s in that bucket.”

I opened the door to the back porch, and there was no mistaking a skunk had been there. Skunk scent was thick in the air. I checked the bucket of water sitting on the porch: smelled just like a skunk. The victim was probably one whose paw prints we had seen in the mud previously, and whose scent we had smelled in the night air.

I listened in as the adults tried to figure out why the skunk had taken his dive.





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