Butch looked up, shaking his head. “If you shoot him under the shack, he’ll stink for the whole month we’re here. We can’t stand a month of nights like last night. We couldn’t even eat our supper for the smell.”
“You’re right about that,” agreed Caleb. “It’s too cold to be outside and too stinky to be inside. We’ve got to do something.”
“Do you think we could get him out, then shoot him?” asked Butch, scratching over his ear where the hair curled.
Caleb looked at the youngest cowboy, “You volunteering to go in and get him?”
Butch thought, then said, “No, I don’t suppose I am. But we have to do something.”
“Maybe we could trap him,” suggested Newell, who had been silent until then, listening and thinking.
“Now, there’s an idea,” said Caleb, warming to the thought. “There are some coyote traps at the barn.”
“Those wouldn’t work for a skunk, he isn’t heavy enough to trip the pad on one of those leg traps. But I have an idea. When I was a kid, my cousin and I would trap quail in a peach crate. You know, the kind with twisted wire and thin wood slats. We’d bait the trap with corn, then prop it up with a stick and a string. We’d wait for the quail to go in, then pull the string.”
“That’s the dumbest damn thing I ever heard of,” complained Carson. “How many quail did you catch like that?”
“To be honest, not many. They’re too smart – but unless you’ve got a better idea, I think it’s worth a try,” Newell replied.
“Me too,” agreed Butch.
“Then let’s do it,” decided Caleb. “We’ll get home early enough tonight to get ready, then you can go in and set the trap.”
“I think you’re all fools,” disagreed Carson. “The skunk’ll spray Newell while he’s in there setting the trap. You think it stinks now with him just living under there? Wait till he sprays. I still think we ought to shoot him and be done.”
“No shooting,” ordered Caleb. “At least not until we get him in the trap.”
The foursome returned early that afternoon, three of the four anxious to see if the trap idea might work. At the barn they found an old peach crate. Two of the wooden slats had been broken so they quickly repaired those with wire. Carson was leaning on a corner post at the barn, soaking up the last of the afternoon sun, watching the preparations of the other three men without offering to help in any way. Finally, he mocked, “What are you going to use for bait? Do you even know what a skunk eats?”
Caleb and Butch looked from Carson to Newell, hoping the cowboy with the trapping experience had thought of that.
“I’ve been thinking on that,” said the smiling cowboy. “You’re right, I don’t know what skunks eat, so I’m going to try lots of things at once. We have a bag full of pecan nuts. Mice love them if they’re shelled and a skunk is kind of like a big mouse. We have corn, coons like corn and a skunk is kind of like a small coon. And we have eggs, I don’t know of a critter that doesn’t like eggs. I’ll mix ’em all up in a tin cup and see what happens.”
“You’re plumb loco,” said Carson as he spat a long stream of tobacco juice in the snow and walked to the shack. It was his turn to cook, though if last night was any indication, none of the hands were going to be very hungry.
Newell shrugged his shoulders and grinned at the two remaining cowboys. “It’s worth a try. What’ve we got to lose?”
Caleb and Butch grinned back. Butch asked, “What else do you need to be ready?”
“Thirty foot of string,” was the reply.
“We ain’t got no string that I can think of. Would a rope work?” offered Caleb.
“I’m sure it will.”
Caleb looked toward the shack. Carson was inside. “Butch, you go get Carson’s rope off his saddle. He ain’t done nothin’ to help. He can supply the rope.”
A supper of elk meat and beans was eaten in the cold breeze outside the shack. It was almost dark when Newell scooted on his belly into the space under the floor boards. They had seen the skunk moving when they peered down through the spaces in the floor – they knew he was in the middle section.
Careful and slow, Newell made his way toward the back of the crawl space. Three sides were closed in by boards, but the front was open. When the crate was set, the trapper slid back out the way he came. When he was able to, he stood and walked into the shack. “It’s going to be too dark under there to see if the skunk goes in. We need to light all the coal oil lamps and set them on the floor. I’ll climb in about half way and wait. Y’all are going to have to be still if we expect the little cuss to try for the food.”