Semper letteris mandate
On Monday, Oct. 22, I received a call from a man named Jack Pichard about something he said was of great interest to the newspaper. Due to a certain lack of coherency during the conversation, it was difficult to determine the exact nature of his news story, but it seemed to have something to do with a skunk, a badger, and a very big hole. In any event, Pichard claimed to have “never seen anything like it”, and given that he’s been controlling wildlife pests in the town of Tompkins “since the forties, sometime,” his claim seemed worth checking out. “It’s on the east side of the Tompkins’ Legion Hall,” he told me, and hung up.
Curiosity suitably aroused, I headed off to Tompkins.
Finding the spot proved to be easier than I’d anticipated since a large crowd (by Tomkins standards) had already gathered for the spectacle. Pushing through the assembly I found a man with longish grey hair standing near the lip of what could only be described as “a very big hole” surrounded by an impressive mound of freshly-dug earth. All in all, it looked as though an entire tribe of mountain dwarves had decided to excavate an open-pit mine in the middle of Tompkins, and riddled the walls with tunnels.
The skunk and badger were nowhere in sight.
“That badger, he’s still in there,” said the grey-haired man, who of course turned out to be Pichard. “When those badgers come out, they don’t stop,” he said, proceeding to relate a number of badger encounters he’d had as evidence of their unrelenting ferocity.
But really, the most compelling evidence was right there in front of us.
According to Prichard, it had all started the night before. Having received reports of a skunk hanging around the Legion Hall, Pichard placed a live trap in the most likely spot for capture. His instincts were apparently as keen as ever, because at some point during the night the skunk fell for his nefarious scheme and got caught.
Unknown to either the trapper or the trapped, however, there was also a badger nearby. To the badger this caged skunk was the equivalent of a fast-food delivery. All he had to do was get the meal out of the packaging – not an easy task considering that it was made of thick steel wires, not unlike a strong chain-link fence.
Having failed to gain immediate access to the skunk, the badger elected to take it home – where perhaps he had a pair of wire cutters or something. Getting it to his underground home, of course, required a very big hole. And so the badger dug one.
The result was at our feet.
Or at Pichard’s feet, I should say, since at some point during his stories about the viciousness of badgers the rest of us had kind of stepped back a ways.
The trap was deep in the hole, and about three-quarters buried in packed dirt. Prichard had already given it a few pulls to free it, but was not optimistic about the success of such methods.
“It looks like I’m going to have to get a chain and a vehicle to pull that out,” he concluded.
After retrieving the chain, though, Pichard decided to give brute force another shot, and after much grunting, a lot of straining, and a wary eye for angry badgers, he finally lugged the trap out and dragged it across the ground, away from the hole.
“He buried that skunk alive,” he said.
By alternately shaking the trap and rapping it on the ground, Pichard began to knock out the encrusted dirt. We could see that the wire body of the trap was still intact, although a little bent here and there, but as more and more dirt emptied, it also became apparent it was also skunk-free. That is, until Pichard pointed to what appeared to be a dirty piece of fur.
“That badger turned him inside out,” he observed with a shake of his head.
Looking at the hole he’d dug, I figured that turning a skunk inside out, even one trapped in a wire cage, was the least of the badger’s accomplishments.