Living in the country definitely has its advantages - wide, open spaces, peaceful night sounds and plenty of fresh air.

Wednesday morning my fresh air was put to the test. I made the daily trek to the barn to let the horses out for the day. I went ahead and filled their water buckets in their stalls so I wouldn't have to do that in the evening. As I went to fill up the last bucket, I noticed B.C. (Barn Cat) was playing around with a stray that keeps visiting at the barn.

As B.C. moved to the side, my heart started pounding and my mind immediately started racing.

That old cat was a skunk. It immediately saw me and started moving away, walking like someone wearing shoes that are too tight (that's the way the encyclopedia describes it).

Of course, as it walked away, I was in the direct line of fire and I didn't want to scare him or make him mad since that seems to set off his defense system. Besides, I'd read that skunks can spray you up to 13 feet away and with pretty good force. I didn't want to find out if that was so or not.

The skunk waddled on toward the hay and backed into a little hole he'd apparently made and just peered out at us.

B.C. kept getting closer to the skunk and I kept yelling for B.C. to come to me. Did he mind? Of course not. He just leaned down toward the skunk and moved his tail back and forth, ever so slightly.

Fine time to be ignored. But I was determined to save my cat and myself. So I eased slowly toward B.C., grabbed his back legs and off he and I flew outside the barn. I had not felt well the day before, but I was amazed at how quickly recovery comes when it's you or a skunk.

As I looked back inside the barn, out waddled the skunk - right to B.C.'s food dish. This uninvited guest seemed to have found a warm bed and food. Now I love animals, but there just isn't room at the inn for Pepe Le Pew, even if my vet tells me that sometimes cats and skunks become friends. Not at this house.

After I made sure the horses were OK outside, B.C. and I trotted back to the house. Since he had a vet visit the next day, I decided to go ahead and lock him on the back porch for safe keeping from the skunk.

I went back home at lunch to check on B.C. and thought I'd make a quick run down to the barn to see if I still had company. I walked past the horses and eased toward the barn gate.

Peering ever so slowly around the gate, I didn't see anything. My dad had told me to move the food from the barn and the skunk would leave when he didn't have access to B.C.'s meals.

Before removing the bowl, I thought I'd check inside the stalls, too, just in case. Nothing in Poco's stall. Nothing in Windsor's stall. But while I was in Windsor's stall, I had a feeling that I was being watched.

I turned back toward the hay and my eyes went straight up to the top bale of hay. All I saw was black and white and I immediately wondered how another door on that side of the barn would look.

And besides, how did that skunk waddle and jump up those stairstepped bales of hay to get way up there? I looked back up again and realized that it was the black and white stray cat that visits from time to time. I took in a deep breath - as deep as you dare take in a horse's stall and went back outside.

As I headed back up to the house, I took in a big breath of that good ol' country air, smiled and thought that's just what the doctor odored.

Charlotte Wolfe is managing editor of the Daily Journal.

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