On The Light Side: Beware - skunky love is in the air

February 22, 2004|EMILY BURTON

Skunky love is in the air. And on tires of those unlucky enough not to avoid the striped road kill in the center lane.

The skunk population now is stirring after a long, cold winter, and sensing spring in the air, has emerged to brave two-lane highways in the pursuit of true love.

As I drive by and around and occasionally over those failed attempts at safe crossing, I am reminded that other animals are as devoted to their hearts, but they have a better sense of timing.

Other forms of road kill don't leave behind such a pungent calling card. It's time we protect our autos, our noses and our roadways. Give skunks a chance.


Skunks, members of the weasel family, begin courtship in February and March. According to Animal Diversity Web, males use their spray to communicate with females and to mark their territory.

They write their names in the snow, court several striped beaus, and remain loners for the rest of the year.

They are true connoisseurs of the "Don't call me, I'll call you" game.

But skunks are given a bad rap. They eat pesky insects, keep the grub population down, and can actually provide hours of entertainment for children and adults alike.

There are a host of other animals I'd rather see on the road. A conservative Republican, for one.

What about the cat next door that sings the entire score to "My Fair Lady" at midnight, every night? Give him a badge, make him a crossing guard for a day. On I-75.

Keep in mind I am not against cats, or for that matter, staunch Republicans. But I am tired of smelling skunk in lieu of spring flowers.

I'm sure with a little thought we can take steps to preserve our stinky friends from falling under the tires of progress.

Groundhogs have their own day in February, and they don't really serve any purpose. Skunks deserve a day to themselves, to preserve a species that has taught us valuable lessons - like the importance of looking both ways before crossing.

Skunk day on Feb. 3 would bring with it school assemblies and driving tips. Tax breaks for anyone who avoided one on the road. I can see parades, floats, balloons, food. Another excuse for Pennsylvanians to give the powers of scientific meteorological deductions to overfed mammals and their shadows.

All of those millions of workers who have lost jobs under Bush's reign could be given cushy government positions as crossing assistants for our striped friends in need. Personally, I know the people of Danville would not mind waiting in traffic for a few extra moments to allow these sweet creatures to pass. After all, they wait for elementary students all the time, and I've met kids that don't smell half as good as a well-mannered skunk.

What about tunnels under the road way, little passages of safe haven. Or skyways. Ski lifts for skunks, motorized walkways for deer, all wonderful service projects for local Girl and Boy Scouts.

Or, to cut costs, other animals less grandiose than the noble skunk could be used as test-crossers for our striped friends.

Imagine with me. A skunk walks up to the road, his love of the night on the other side. He looks left, no lights. Looks right, nothing. He gives the go-ahead and a chicken starts to walk ahead of him. Over the hill pops a Buick going 80. Tires squeal, lights spin over the pavement, feathers whirl through the air. Who knew chickens really could fly?

The skunk is safe to cross into the arms of his lady love.

We suddenly have chicken nuggets and an answer to life's most bothersome mystery.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Because it was the skunk's night off.

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