When I talk with people about living in the mountains, our conversations often drift into discussions about the sensory experience of country life, compared to the city. I hear comments about the wonderful scents of the forest: air freshened by trees, just before snow falls or just after a thunderstorm, the musty crunch of fallen leaves under hiking boots, the perfume of flowers and plants growing. Rarely, does anyone mention the aroma of skunks mating, while smiling.
Most people have smelled road-killed skunks, with an overwhelming sense of eye-watering distaste. Country commuting does put you along the path of a lot of road kill. Most of it is visual revolting, but not really aromatic, if you keep moving. A mangled deer in the ditch, a bloated raccoon in the gravel, a squished squirrel on the pavement. Unless the vultures are nearby, you will pass them, divert your view, and drive on.
Our first good whiff of vultures was driving over the pass between the Coves, WV and Bayse, VA. This is a steep dirt track, only passable with high clearance and 4-wheel drive. I saw some large, dark birds perched in the branches of the trees growing on the downward slope. This put them right at window level. Wow, what a view of nature. I stopped and rolled down the windows. Ohhh! Vultures digesting road-kill just off the bank. When you startle vultures, the disgorge themselves as they take off. Not a pretty sight and a nauseating odor. Quick, roll up that window and don’t let them fly over your vehicle!
We were puzzled when we first moved the mountains as to why a lot of the For Sale signs came down in Spring. Spring, the season of babbling brooks, budding trees, and dogwoods in bloom. Then we learned that Spring is when the farmers clean out their barns and compost sheds to spread manure on the fields. This looks innocent enough from a distance on a cold day. But, wait for that sunny day in the 60’s or 70’s F. All that slurry warms up, turns your stomach, and burns your eyes, until the next rain storm pulls the nutrients into the soil. I have a great talent for handing Linda her drive-home, garden-grown V-8 juice just around the corner from some field that was spread and fermenting. She complains about the beverage service in the cockpit.
February is mating season for skunks. Rather than the black-with-white-strip cat in the road, foretelling of the in-car exhaust issue you will soon face, mating skunks drop a canister of tear gas without warning. This time of year we will smell 3 to 5 rounds of ferrel romance along our morning drive. The scent is actually different from road kill. All the skunk without the decay. I will admit that I have come to look forward to skunk season. While others peer out to see a groundhog seeing his shadow, I just wait for the whiff of skunks in love. Ah! Six more weeks of winter.
Happy Valentines Day! What reminds you that Spring is near?