Comedy of Errors

Is this a story I want to tell?  Ought to tell?  Probably not.  But it will go down in our family history so I might as well share it.

It all started about a week ago when we first saw the pair of skunks eating a cat food mess, lovingly provided on our side porch by one of our younger children.  No, actually if I think back, it began last last summer, when we observed, for the first time in over a dozen years in this house, a Norway rat, eating kibbles from a similar cat food mess on the back porch.

“This has to stop,” I said.  The littles are not allowed to feed the cats anymore, only the older kids.  We can’t have cat food all over the place.

“Rats carry disease,” Jonny said.  “We have to kill it.”

“It’s awfully cute, but yes, of course we do.”  I replied.

But we didn’t see it again, and eventually we became occupied with other things, other creatures…

Lying in bed awake one night, I smelled the unmistakeable smell of skunk spray.  Weird.

And then it happened again.  Middle of the night, and I smell skunk.  Weirder.

Last week, I went for a walk with Keats and Trudy.  Upon returning to the house Trudy must have run toward the backyard.  I didn’t even notice until a flurry of activity began in the (uninhabited) chicken coop.  A small, fluffy, black creature was trying to jump up the chicken wire walls with Trudy excitedly barking at it.  I shouted for her to stop, to come back.  She initially ignored me and suddenly it hit me, the fact that the creature she was barking at was a skunk!

I mostly cleaned up my language well over a decade ago, but I have to admit that Keats witnessed his mother using a curse word for the first time, as I accidentally let an “Oh shit!” escape my panicked self.

Mommy!”  he scolded, just as Trudy decided to exit the chicken coop.  By some miracle that little skunk didn’t spray her.

But either it or the skunk whom we assume must be it’s mother, nailed her Thursday night.  The skunks were outside eating cat food.  We have a no cat food at night rule now.  Judging by the food scattered in a pile on the ground, we strongly suspected Silas as the violator of the rule.  Silas is also the child who decided to let Trudy out the door to visit with the skunks.  I was, at this point, upstairs putting Job to bed.  Between the shouting that ensued and the smell that quickly reached my nostrils, threatening to singe my nose hairs, I knew what had happened.

Five baths or so later, including treatments with skunk stink miracle remover, Trudy still smells, though she no longer makes my nostrils burn.

During the following twenty four-hours, the skunk odor faded (either that or we just got used to it), but events only became more interesting.  First the dryer stopped working.  You don’t even want to know how much laundry is piling up around here.  Within an hour or so of realizing the heating element in the dryer was fried, Keats came running from the downstairs bath crying out that the water in the bathtub wouldn’t turn off.  The situation escalated to the point that Gabe had to bail water into the toilet while Jonny ripped open the wall to reach the valve to turn the water off there.  That’s okay, we’ve still got the upstairs shower and there are only nine of us.  No big deal.

That night, after the littles were in bed, and Jonny and I had mostly recovered our hope in the face of the broken things and the skunky dog, we had a little excitement.  We were in the living room with our older boys, talking and working on projects, when I headed to the kitchen to grab a cup of tea.  I had only made it a few steps into the room, when something awfully large ran right across my path and under the couch.  I had a slightly delayed reaction, having no previous experience with RATS IN MY HOUSE before.  “There’s a rat under the couch!” I screamed as I ran back into the other room and promptly jumped on top of the nearest piece of furniture.

Did I say that rats are cute?  I think I need to recant.

Jonny didn’t think my idea to “GET THE GUN!” was a good one.  He and the boys hurried into the kitchen to investigate.

I remained on my safe perch, and called my friend Eve.  I’m sure she appreciated my late-night frantic play-by-play.

Couch cushions started flying into the living room.

There was no sign of the rat and Jonny wondered if it might have exited back down the broken heating vent that it entered through.  (I guess it’s time for Jonny to repair the duct work under the house again.)

I ventured to the kitchen doorway just as Jonny was turning the couch on it’s back.

Keats put his ear up to the bottom and said, “It’s in there.  I hear it.”

Someone suggested that we let Trudy take care of it.  She was called into the kitchen and encouraged to peek through the rip in the bottom of the couch.  She sniffed inside the hole, and without a second thought, returned to her spot in front of the woodstove.  Seth suggested Intruder, and brought him inside.  He almost looked interested as Keats provoked the rat to run around a bit just as Intruder poked his head into the hole to see what was inside.  It took him about half a second to retreat to the chair next to woodstove.  At this point, I left the room, and returned to my perch.

What ensued can only be described as a comedy of absolute chaos.  I listened as the rat was coaxed out of the couch and into the midst of Jonny and the boys.  There were shouts and I was able to make out a few words.  At one point, Seth yelled, “I’ll grab a rolling pin!”  I cringed as I heard the scurrying of the rat all over the room intermingled with the heavier sounds created by Jonny and the boys running around after it.  I am not sure they had any clear plan.  After what must have been no more than a minute or so, I heard Keats shout, “I’ve got it!”  My eleven year old son, known also as Keatsy Baby, caught a rat with only his hands and a towel.  “Don’t let it bite you!”  Jonny shouted.

I may have sounded somewhat hysterical as I cried, “Get it out of here!”  Everyone ran outside but they were at a loss of what to do.  I think everyone was having a hard time believing that Keats was actually holding a rat.  “Are you just going to let it go out there?” I shouted.  I had Eve on the phone, saying, “It’s a rat!  You have to kill it!  KILL IT!”  There was a lot of crazy running around, trying to figure out what to do with the rat that Keats WAS HOLDING, when all of a sudden everyone stopped.  In all his effort not to drop the rat, Keats inadvertently killed it.  He held it to death.  And that was that.

So here I sit.  One broken dryer, one broken bathtub faucet, one stinky dog, one dead rat outside in the trashcan, and two skunks hanging around.  Too bad they spray, because they really are cute.  Cuter even than Claudine with the Maggots.

My apologies for the lack of rat photos.  Forgive me?



  1. Oh thank you for sharing this story. You made me laugh and I really needed a good laugh this morning. In case the cuteness of those skunks (they really are so cute) means they end up staying in your yard, my recommendation after years of dogs getting skunked is to use Pantene shampoo. I’ve found that two baths with Pantene works better to get rid of that stink than all the different products sold specifically for de-skunkifying your pets. It’s certainly cheaper!

  2. Believe it or not, I too have held a mouse to death. We had one stuck to one of those sticky traps (personally, I hate those things, a quick snap to the neck is much more humane IMHO, but I digress…….), I found it in the middle of the night and, in my attempt to pull it free to let it go in the woods, I crushed it. Keats and I should start a club, or at least have t-shirts made up:)

  3. Thanks for a great giggle to share with my son!! Good bless you as you find laughter in the chaos!

  4. It might have been very not fun to live through these events, but you have created one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read, truly well-written and funny, SO FUNNY!

  5. Oh, Ginny! Thank you so much for this story. It made me laugh — I hope you’ll forgive me 🙂 But the mental image of you on top of the furniture, screaming and talking on the phone at the same time was just too much. Oh, and I’m sorry Trudy got sprayed. Skunks are the worst!

  6. This is beautiful. I can only say that as a mother of five who generally lives in chaos. Just lovely. Thank you for letting me know others live like us.

  7. OH MY! this had me laughing so hard, tears were running down my face and i started choking on my coffee. it’s so comforting to know that every family has it’s own bit of drama and chaos. i will say, though, those skunks are adorable …

  8. We’ve never met but I love you! You cannot make this stuff up. You just made my week. And to think I thought my days were bad.

  9. Louise Tilbrook says:

    So funny. I had to retrieve a dead and stinky mouse from behind the cooker yesterday – left by one of our kittens and I was feeling sorry for myself until I read this. Hope you are recovered now.

  10. Thank you for sharing! So glad I’m not the only one, so glad the rat didn’t make it. Hope Keatsy is doing well with it…what a guy. Our dog gets skunked a couple times a year. the best thing that works for smell, for me, is a mixture of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and a little drop of laundry detergent….scrub up the dog, rinse and the smell is usually pretty much gone. oh, and our 3 year old wants to pet the skunks. Praying for your house ailments to be fixed quickly and cost effectively:)

  11. Never been so amused. Best.Blog.Post.Ever!

  12. That story just made my day! Is that okay? I haven’t laughed so hard in awhile. And I thought a little mouse in the garage was bad.

  13. Hilarious, Ginny!

  14. Oh gosh! The pictures are all so precious! Too cute about the skunk!

  15. Oh my goodness!! This was the best story! Thanks for sharing your Comedy of Errors!!

  16. Ha! Epic! Thanks for sharing this, it made my morning! Blessed is the family that can laugh this stuff off! Onward and upward!

  17. Is it possible to sympathize while snorting coffee out my nose?

    I really appreciate that you are honest in your writing. thank you so much for a morning giggle.

  18. Oh my goodness! Thank you for sharing- I truly was laughing out loud. This may be one of those posts you want to keep somewhere and the next time you’re having a really bad day, pull it out again and laugh.

    Rats. Years ago, we lived next door to a woman who FED THE RATS that lived under her house. In the winter, she stopped feeding them, so naturally… they moved into our apartment. The one rat stole all our candy, ruined our stove, chewed holes in cabinets and closets. One night I woke up at 4 in the morning and saw it running in our room and hid under our dresser. I panicked. My husband grabbed his samurai sword and started trying to stab it!!!!! Needless to say, that didn’t work. He was a smart rat and it took about a week before the trap finally caught him instead of just letting him eat all the peanut butter off it.

    I still give my husband a hard time about going after the rat with a samurai sword. 😛

  19. Thank you for a non-sugar coated blog post; this is why I look forward to reading your blog everyday. Good luck with all your living creatures and plumbing!

  20. I am so sorry……. but to be honest I haven’t laughed out loud while reading for quite some time. I even choked on my coffee……

  21. I had a similar experience at the local tip. A RAT ran under my car. I sat screaming behind the steering wheel while various guys poked it out and chased it with sticks. Oh my!

  22. Thank you for sharing the Foreman Family Frolics!Our family jokes that some people have Drama Karma – things just happen to them that don’t happen to others. I love the east, but one plus of living in the arid west is no rats. Lots of gophers and mice (one popped it’s head out of one of the stove burners recently) which is why I have a store of traps and a few cats. I’m so freaked out by mice, so rats would probably give me a heart attack. I smell skunk frequently and see smushed ones on the road occasionally, but our dogs haven’t tangled with any. We lost all our chickens over a period of a few weeks to something/s – probably a combo of bobcats and raccoons. Because of the drought we’ve had bears coming down from the mountains looking for water and food – which brings excitement to a whole new unwelcomed level.

  23. I just heard the other day if you start thinking about coffee when you smell skunk it tricks your brain and starts smelling like coffee to you 🙂

  24. Your son’s a legend…Killing a rat with his bare hands….we’re impressed.

  25. Jessi Roullier says:

    HILARIOUS and amazing story!! Love it xoxo

  26. Oh, Ginny! This was hilarious! No fun in the moment, I’m sure. It’ll make for a great story for years to come, though!

  27. Oh, laughter, sympathy, more laughter, tears from both! ‘Nuff excitement for a while around your place!

  28. Well done Keats! We live near a forest and have a lot of rats around, they get into our walls and ceiling. We use one of these

  29. I am laughing so hard because I can relate. We too have a no cat food at night rule. During the summer, we had FOUR raccoons in our screen room because the kids had busted the bottom part of the screen door. Then last night we had a possum on the second story front porch, eating cat food. We had rats in the garage, but thankfully the cats solved that problem. :). No skunks yet, but the cats would love that! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  30. oh that is hilarious!! so glad you shared

  31. Wow, that’s a crazy story…sure to be remembered for a long time. We’ve seen a Mother possum and her
    babies here one year eating our outdoor cat food. When we yelled at them to please leave, they hissed at us, then played dead. It was very strange.

  32. This made me laugh so hard! I’m so thankful that we aren’t the only family that have things like this happen to us! We missed church a couple of weeks ago b/c one of our dogs got skunked at 11pm and ran in the house before we could catch him making everything he touched stink. We were scared that we smelled like skunk the next morning b/c we could still smell it!

  33. I think it’s wonderful you are making such great memories with your children! What a great story! I di hope you get the dryer fixed soon though. (Still laughing!)

  34. I’m laughing myself silly over here!!! I am cracking up at the swearing, the lack of a clear plan the kids and your husband had in the midst of the shear chaos, and finally laughing at the unlikely ending this all had. What a story!!!

  35. Wow, what a story! Never a dull moment in your house…

  36. I laughed and had to read this to my mom. Our dog was recently skunked (and at 13, I guess she was overdue) and we didn’t realize it until she came running back in the house and the smell followed her. She never touched the furniture, but the whole house smelled horrible! I didn’t realize that the odor clung to our clothes (the things we weren’t wearing) until I took my son to school and I went to class myself. Nothing is worse than sitting in Bible class and your pastor wanders in and says “Wow.. it smells skunky in here!”

    We ended up taking everything to the laundromat and wiping every surface down with vinegar. The dog was bathed repeatedly with a mixture our vet suggested: 1 qt. (32 oz) of (fresh, unopened) 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup (50 g) baking soda, and 1 to 2 tsp (5-10 g) No-tears baby shampoo, liquid dish soap or liquid hand soap in a medium sized bowl. She stills has a faint odor to her if she gets a deep scritching, but I think the smell is for the most part gone.

    Good luck to you all! Hope you have a better week!

  37. Lynda Kling says:

    We had the dogs get skunked, but everyone was “too busy” to wash them except me……I thought the smell was gone, but almost a week later a good friend confessed that I still had a skunk smell lingering about me….I feel for you!

  38. I laughed so hard! Thank you for sharing your crazily funny and chaotic story with us. And who can say they single-handedly (or towelled) a rat to death 🙂

  39. That was an awesome story! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  40. I am smiling ear to ear reading this post, Ginny, thank you! So glad you share the good, the bad, and the skunky on your blog. We have not had any issues with skunks, but mice and chipmunks seem to occupy my time a lot. Our farm cats love to bring them in the garage, alive, to play with and then let them go…still alive. Then we end up with critters in the garage and cats that and it drives me crazy. Cat food in our shoes. Corn in our shoes. Poo in our shoes. Good grief. Rodents! Great re-telling, too, in this post. You write so well. I hope your rat problems are over. xx

    • Ginny, you just might want to consider a subtitle for Small Things…”the good, the bad, and the skunky”. Love it!

  41. I don’t comment often, just fully enjoy and look forward to your weekly blogs, but this deserves an award and prize! Thank you so much for sharing the adventure with us so our day could end in laughter even if yours was pretty miserable.

  42. If it didn’t sound so frustrating for you guys, it would be one of the most hilarious things ever! I once stepped on a skunk on my back porch (it was dark) and got sprayed. That was a smell you do not easily forget. Our porch (which was enclosed with our washer and dryer inside) smelled like skunk all summer long. It happened in July…in Virginia…where, as you know it is hot all summer long. I had to throw away the clothes and shoes I was wearing that night, because no magical skunk odor removing miracle worked. My coworker drew a picture of me with skunk shoes and fumes coming off of me as a joke one day. Clearly I stank no matter what clothes I wore or how many times I showered.

    Anyway…I will pray that your water and dryer get fixed quickly and that no more rat or skunk encounters haunt you!

  43. Oh my gosh, I have not laughed so hard in such a long time. Sounds like something that might happen at my house. You have made my night!!!

  44. What, no rat photos??? Haha; you’re forgiven. Hindsight is so hilarious. Sorry you have the broken dryer and the bathtub faucet. I feel your pain with the skunks. Although I have never experienced being sprayed or a my dog (from my early childhood years) getting sprayed, I have smelled the remains of many skunks that got ran over on a newspaper route that I helped deliver several years ago. The “burned nose-hairs” is quite a real discription too I must say. Thank you once again for sharing your family stories, it was definitely worth telling.

  45. Oh my – that is hysterical. I could picture the whole thing happening!

  46. Oh dear Bob! That sounds like an awful mess all around. We have to bring the dog food inside at night because the racoons and sewer rats and God knows what else get at it otherwise. We live in a large, urban area…there should not be wildlife around here. ::sigh:: Also, when we lived in Wisconsin, I found mice in the garage on more than one occasion and I swear I could hear them scuttling inside the walls. Ick.

  47. My first thought was “Wow, Gabe is getting so handsome!” And then it all went downhill from there! 😉 LOL! I’m horrified by rats in the sofa (I think Hallie Lord and Jen Fulwiler have a story about that, too!), but it reminds me of the time we were chasing a mouse around the house to kill it. It fell down the stairs and I jumped from the stairs into the next room (AWAY from it!), but those things move fast and I landed right on top of it. Squished it. I hope Keatsy-baby isn’t scarred by squeezing the rat to death!

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