By Jo Cross
M. Josephine “Jo” Cross, local author and former La Veta mayor, joined the Huerfano Journal in July of 2008 in order to write a sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant series reminiscing about the funny things that have happened, and about the people that have made things happen in the Cuchara Valley. She told the Journal in November of 2008 that she expected that many of her pieces would be published posthumously. She died Dec. 5, 2008 at the age of 93. We honor her memory by running the remainder of her stories this summer.
CUCHARA- In the early 1930’s, the skunks didn’t come down to Cuchara, they lived there. Every cabin that had no foundation had a den of skunks under it. Our own experience is recorded in River of Friendship, but there were plenty of other stories to tell of our friends and neighbors.
One night Helen and I were coming home by starlight when we saw a streak of white by Texas Lodge. We ran pell-mell and burst panting into our haven. The next morning we were chagrined to see a clump of white Shasta daisies newly planted there. After all, it could have been a skunk.
One early morning, Tommy Maricle and I left our house to go to the store, planning to stop at Maricle’s across the creek from us. As we came down the road, we came upon a small skunk with its head stuck in a half-pint cream bottle. The poor thing was backing along trying to get out without success. Tommy said, “What should we do?” I told him the skunk wasn’t dangerous until it’s turned its back and lifted its tail, so step on the bottle. He did and the skunk got out, sat and breathed a bit, looking at the bottle and us. It finally walked away.
Another supposed skunk episode that turned into something else was no bed of daisies. Wanda Jameson had a chicken house and yard behind the hotel. Skunks sometimes got in and ate the eggs. Early one night Wanda heard the hens in an uproar. Armed with courage, determination, and a baseball bat, Wanda rushed out to do battle. Through the broken door, Wanda confronted a black bear. Amazingly, she killed the bear with no harm to herself. The next day, we were offered bear steaks, and they were delicious.
One evening I was sitting at the dining room table when I heard unmistakable sounds under the floor. I’d heard such noises before and knew it was a skunk. We were having a storage shed built on the back of the cabin and for some reason, the workmen had taken out about a foot of the foundation. The shed floor was to be flagstones set in concrete, so we had a big pile of rocks back there. Since the weekend was coming up the workmen piled rocks over the foundation hole. I went to the window and saw a skunk walking away. It was huge, as big as a bear cub. I went out and found the rocks pushed away to make a sizeable passage. I cleared out the rocks— big ones I couldn’t lift, but had to roll. Then I re-laid the rocks, flat sides together and wedged them on all sides with the biggest rocks to a height halfway up the cabin side. It took me an hour, so I knew the skunk had a lot of rock work to do.
About an hour before dawn, she came back— a very pregnant female. Armed with a shiny table knife, I rapped on the window. She and I were nearly eye to eye as she stood on top of the rock pile. I was rapping noisily and yelling at her to go away (among other things less polite). She looked at me, at the rock pile, then looked at me for a long time. Finally, she moved east to the fence, stopping a few times to look at me, as I was going from window to window to make sure she left. She didn’t come back!
She decided that maniac was more than she could handle.