Wisdom can be developed in many ways.
I personally have always tried to associate myself with those that were clever of thought and judgment. As a teacher, I am annually and humbly reminded that many of the students in my classroom are brighter than I. Yet often I discover that even the brightest among them are not wise.
Wisdom may be discovered in books (for those who still read), in earnest toil (the type that produces moisture on the brow), and taken from the mouths of babes (along with car keys and lose change). When I pray for my children, I ask first for wisdom and second for restraint. But this past week I discovered that wisdom can come from new and surprising sources. I was blessed with the opportunity to view a performance that granted wisdom in an instant. Wisdom delivered by the south end of a baby skunk.
In some studies, 60 to 70 % of ground-laying bird nests have been destroyed by skunks. They are incredible destructive and inquisitive and are persecuted by almost all who come in contact with them. Skunks are also beautiful and mostly nocturnal and I’ve been privy to cases of pet skunks. I vividly remember a student bringing a pet skunk to class as a visual aid in a demonstration speech. Up until that occasion, I had been of the opinion that human beings and old dogs were the primary practitioners of obesity. But this particular specimen of the skunk family had every creature I have ever viewed in person, beat. Were you aware that under the black fur, the skin of a skunk is actually quiet pale? That if you stretch that skin over a period of months with massive bouts of over-eating, that you will create a creature that resembles a giant, breathing, albino bathmat. Who knew?
Drought drives skunks into communities looking for water and in some states that haven’t had any rabies cases for years, dozens have been reported this season. A third of all rabies cases are diagnosed in skunks. Subsequently, animal control officers are often asked to deal professionally with the occasional incursion of skunks into communities.
Ranger Mitch Adams and I were aware that skunks had been using the water features at the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery. My sons and I had been removing nuisance squirrels from the grounds to protect the historical buildings. We were using live traps and relocating the animals safely to the surrounding forest. We had unintentionally captured the occasional blue jay and chipmunk and released them also, but that morning my young son Connor came racing back from the traps with a grin on his face, “Guess what we caught?”
Mitch and I discussed several options to remove the young skunk that included tarps and ten foot poles, but decided, after a flicker of sanity, that a cell phone might be our best tool for this particular activity. A call to the local police department brought not only the new Animal Control Officer trainee but a second patrol escort for backup and apparently to document the entire episode digitally for later department training sessions. (I love living in a town that is so safe that I can still get police protection from a baby skunk while more than 500 members of the Hells Angel are in town.)
One veteran officer provided a demonstration of skunk whispering that was quite persuasive while the others stood back at a distance recording the entire proceeds. They then handed the trainee a small tarp and instructed him to peacefully and calmly advance upon the animal and gently lower the tarp without suddenly dropping it and provoking a response. By this time an audience of kids had arrived and the skunk was starting to lose its cool.
The young officer was valiant and professional. He proceeded with his duties even after taking a direct hit up his nose. The tarp unfortunately did not fall gently. We were all treated to a chemical display unique and staggering in magnitude, totally in disproportion to our young captive’s size. Only then did we discover that the squirrel traps were immediately adjacent to the air intake for the D.C. Booth offices. It cleared the entire building. I hear it was worse on the second floor.
Wisdom granted. Some lessons you only need to learn once.