Princess: Getting skunked up the Fryingpan
The Aspen Princess
We’ve been skunked.
Oh, this is just another little lesson about living in a rural area and the little adjustments one must make in exchange for total privacy and insane views. This is just another reminder that you’re not in Aspen anymore, kid. There’s no more lounging by the Sky Hotel pool in your barely-there bikini with the hot yoga chicks, no easy way to get into Food & Wine and no gallery openings because I’m not driving 50 miles round-trip for a two-hour event.
Once you’re out, you’re out. And we’re, like, really far out.
I think about this when I am sitting in my car at the road closure on the bottom of Frying Pan Road that is going to continue all month. There’s a big “Road Closed” sign, and they only let you go by, like, every 20 minutes. The weird dude in the orange vest never remembers me and comes to my window to explain what’s going on.
“I live up here, so I have no choice,” I tell him each time.
I live in a place to which there is no alternative route.
When we first moved up here, we thought it was so cool that there is no homeowners’ association.
“We can do whatever we want!” we squealed, dancing in a circle and beating our chests with our fists like a caveman couple. “No one can tell us what to do! Wooga-wooga! Wooga-wooga!”
Now I understand the need for a homeowners’ association. It’s those little things, such as road maintenance and snow removal and organizing where all the neighbors leave their trash bins and mailbox management (the postwoman on our route has threatened to stop delivering our mail if we don’t build a proper stand on which to put all our mailboxes so they are even and far enough away from the road so as not to get sideswiped by plow trucks in the winter).
Our dirt road is rutted and dusty and full of holes. The neighbors are freaking out about the dust and the obvious need to have the road properly graded. There has been an email chain going on for over a month now on trying to fix this problem, and I presume it will go on for about three more before anything is done (if ever).
In exchange for all that nonsense, we get to live in a decent-sized house on an acre and a half of land surrounded by wilderness. From my desk, I can see the water of the river glittering like liquid diamonds in the late afternoon sun and hear the water rushing at nighttime. My favorite is when the full moon wakes me up at night, when its light splashes through the skylight in our bedroom, lighting up the night sky so I can see the mountain ridge line.
I’ve written a lot about the wildlife, how the animals don’t startle or run away — they just stand there and stare at you like, “What are you doing here?” We often see huge herds of bighorn sheep, deer and elk meandering through our neighborhood. I watched a mountain lion walk across my driveway right in front of me like I wasn’t even there. I swear he gave me the “What’s up?” head nod like a gangster. There are the occasional moose and the eagles and a red fox that trots up and down Frying Pan Road, often making laps around our house. With his tall ears, deep-set eyes and long snout and the way he stares at me intelligently, I sometimes wonder if he is possessed by the spirit of our deceased German shepherd, George, protecting us.
There are plenty of pesky little creatures such as rabbits and chipmunks, spiders and ants. But the one animal I haven’t seen is a skunk.
Oh, but there is a skunk somewhere, either dead or alive, whose stench has been permeating our walls, vents, closets and cupboards.
So I called the exterminator dude, and he was, like, a character out of a movie. He showed up at the house in a green-shirt uniform that looked like a forest ranger’s, with patches and a collar and buttons down the front. He had a slight accent that wasn’t so much Southern as it was country, a drawl that made everything he said more entertaining than if someone else said it.
“How do you locate the animal?” I asked. “Do you have some infrared equipment or something?”
“Thirty-five years of sniffin’,” he said.
He walked around our house with his flashlight and gave me a tutorial on all the breeds of spiders, ants, pack rats and mice that live and thrive in Colorado. He pulled a dead pack rat that was in a trap out of our crawl space and was carrying it around like it was a weed he’d just pulled out of the ground, gesturing with it and talking to me as if it were totally normal to hold a dead animal in your hand during casual conversation. I had to avert my eyes and restrict my gag reflex, which, fortunately for me, is not super-sensitive.
“This place is a pest-control nightmare,” he said, shooting his flashlight this way and that.
He inspected every square inch of the place and ultimately came up with nothing.
“Maybe a skunk had a tussle with another animal and you just got sprayed,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. He sprayed some anti-odor stuff around our property and then left.
I wanted to dive for his legs and wrap my arms around his ankles so he couldn’t leave until he found the culprit. I wanted to pound my fists into the grass and kick my feet and scream, “Why? Why? Why?” at the top of my lungs.
But I guess like all things that truly stink, this too shall pass. So for now, I just have to breathe through my mouth and wait.
The Princess really needs to have her eyebrows waxed. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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