Recently back from our respective vacations Ernie and I resume our early morning walks.
Before I open the door I shine the flashlight through the glass and check its bottom outside: is our little toad ensconced in the corner? He isn’t.
So with full enthusiasm we go into the darkness; Ern’s leash is on because I never know if we will encounter a creature that will activate his hunting nature. For example, reaching the road, if he blindly follows his nose, he could meet an untimely demise from a car whizzing by.
Reversing direction we head outback to the safety of pastures.
The Texas stars are bright in the clear partially moon-lit sky. Orion’s belt is my favorite: it guided early explorers like Columbus.
Suddenly Ernie yanks on the leash. His tail is tick-tocking with optimism. I tighten my hold.
My buddy squeals with delight as he nears something. What is it?
I turn on the flashlight: it’s A SKUNK!
Almost instinctively I pull Ernie back. The last thing he needs is to be sprayed. Just as that thought passes the young stinker – about a foot front to back – raises his black and white stop sign. Ernie’s nose is just inches away.
Having presented his formidable defense the shaggy fluff-ball saunters off heading for parts unknown.
Did the Ern get dosed?
Luckily, he didn’t; I recall stories about the interminable washing’s it takes to eliminate natures distinctive perfume.
As we eventually return to the shack we are surprised by a neighbor from his protectorate TOADLANDIA. The diminutive guy sits perfectly still on the concrete as we carefully avoid accosting him. Still pre-dawn, he hasn’t yet made it to the doorway.