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“D’you hear that Butch and Carson?” asked Caleb.

“Yes sir,” answered Butch. Carson only looked at the older man, then retreated to his bunk for the night.

The coal oil lamps were lit and placed on the floor over the biggest of the cracks. Newell belly-crawled half way into the crawl space and waited. Soon, the only sound that could be heard was the snoring of the three men in the shack. Newell waited patiently, but as the night wore on, he too became sleepy.

He closed his eyes for just a second’s worth of rest, then woke suddenly as a mouse ran across his arm. He jerked, hitting his head on the floor boards. Cursing silently, he settled in again, watching the trap with the intensity of a circling eagle.

At length, Newell thought he could hear movement toward the trap. He strained his eyes. Suddenly he saw the foul smelling creature, close to the trap, but not quite inside. Newell’s hands gripped the rope, ready to spring the trap the moment the skunk went in. He didn’t have to wait long. The skunk ambled under the box directly to the cup with the gruel mix.

Newell jerked the rope, the stick was away and the skunk was trapped.

“I got him. I got him,” yelled Newell, shimmying out of the crawl space as fast as he could. He ran into the shack, but the three men were snoring, dead to the world. “Humph,” he remarked to himself, “Big help y’all were.”  

Carson was the first one up since it was still his turn to cook. He started the fire in the pot belly stove, then rattled dishes in his cooking. The other three men stirred. Butch sat on his bunk, pulling his pants over his long-handle underwear. He noticed Newell, still in bed but leaning on his elbow, a big smile on his face. “Did you catch him?” asked the young, curly haired man.

“Sure did. That trap worked just like I told you guys it would.”

“Well, I’ll be damned,” squawked Caleb. “That calls for a celebration.”

“Sure does,” agreed Butch. “Let’s open a can of peaches for breakfast instead of waiting till Sunday.”

The men dressed, then sat at the roughhewn table to enjoy flap-jacks and peaches. Carson was mad that Newell’s idea worked and at all the attention he was getting. Finally, the cook said, “Okay, smarty britches, how’re you going to get him out from under the shack now that he’s caught?”

Newell smiled, unperturbed by the man’s attitude. “I’ve been thinking on that. I’ll shimmy in to the peach crate and tie the rope on it. If we drag it out slow, he’ll have to walk along inside the crate.”

“And just how do you figure to get the rope tied without getting sprayed?” asked Carson.

Newell dropped his fork to the table, starting to lose his patience. He looked at the naysayer. “I heard a long time ago that a skunk can’t spray unless he can get his tail up. That peach crate’s low enough to the ground. I think it’s worth a try unless you know something better.”

Carson wiped the skillet with an oily rag before hanging it on the wall. He glanced back with a scowl. “Just be warned that if you get sprayed, you’ll have to sleep at the barn till the smell wears off.”

Caleb stood, looking at both men. Then while glaring at Carson, addressed the trapper, “Newell, I say you get on down there and pull the polecat out.”

Newell donned his coat, then stepped out the door and down to the ground below. In no time he was on his belly, slowly and deliberately working his way toward the skunk. The varmint hunched down at the back of the crate, facing Newell, beady eyes watching the man approach. The cowboy slowly tied the rope onto the wire of the peach crate, then backed out. Once outside he carefully pulled on the rope. All four men watched the crate slowly make its way to the light of day with the skunk reluctantly moving along inside.

 Newell pulled until the trap and the skunk were ten feet from the shack, out in the open area at the front. Caleb turned and said over his shoulder to Carson, “Now you can shoot him.”

Carson was standing close, but he didn’t have a gun. Instead he held a can of coal oil. “Shootin’s too fast. He made life miserable for us, he’s got to pay.” He stepped forward, poured the coal oil on the skunk, then struck a match and threw it into the peach crate. The oil on the skunk quickly caught. He was running around inside the peach crate in a panic.

“That’ll teach the little no-account,” said Carson smugly. Then looking at the rope, he said, “Newell, your rope’s burning.”

“Ain’t mine, it’s yours,” said the trapper.