Friday, October 7, 2016

When Things Were Black and White

When I first entered college, money was very tight.  College was expensive, and my wallet was cheap.  I lived in the dorm on campus, but the first semester I couldn’t afford the cafeteria, so I did the best I could to survive by fishing at a nearby lake for something to eat.  I was usually successful, but not always.

During this first semester I heard that a city close by was having a skunk problem and the city council was having difficulties securing a pest control company to remedy the situation.  I found out when the next meeting of the council was, and I made certain I was there to offer my services.

I was a bow hunter, and I thought a bow would be perfect for hunting in the streets and alleys after midnight two or three times a week.  It was quiet, and I was normally very accurate with my arrow placements.  It made sense to me, but when I proposed it to the council, they snickered and showed me the door.  Oh well.

A few weeks later I was summoned to the chancellor’s office at the university.  For the life of me I couldn’t figure what I had done to deserve this, but when I arrived I was met by one of the councilmen who had refused my service offer.  It seems things weren’t smelling too good for the city, and they had reconsidered what I had proposed.

Paperwork and legalities move at a snail’s pace, and it was the beginning of my second semester before everything was in place for me to venture forth among the high-rises to hunt the critters.  I was thinking at a few dollars per skunk, this should the answer to my financial problems.  And it certainly helped.  But I soon learned the smell of money wasn’t as sweet as I had hoped.

I had the expenses of using my old car and hiring a driver to patrol the streets while I sat on the hood of the car with bow and arrow ready.  It worked like a charm.  Each time we went in search of PepĂ© we managed to quickly fill the big ice chest I carried in the trunk of my car.  After expenses for the driver and gasoline, I was actually earning a decent amount of money.  But there was another cost.

The one thing I didn’t fully prepare for was the one thing that makes a skunk a skunk.  No matter how tightly that ice chest lid was closed, the skunks it contained smelled like the skunks it contained, and eventually so did my car.  To top it off, I could deliver the skunks to an animal control compound only once each week, meaning the skunks stayed in the ice chest (without ice) far too long.

Slowly my classmates at the college began to sit in small groups as far from me as they could.  I noticed the professors would open windows in the room even if it was raining or cold outside.  And my roommate in the dorm starting spending nights “studying” with a friend in another room.

The end came when one night I walked over to retrieve a skunk, and I didn’t see its friend in the shadows.  It was the only time I got sprayed, but it was one time too many for my compatriots at the college.  At least the semester was almost over, and the skunk project was ending anyway.  The smell of money was not as I had expected, and I didn’t pursue the skunks in future semesters.  But those times of black and white made certain I no longer had to fish to eat.

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