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Classroom Memories: Reliving a ‘skunk-tastrophy’

It’s not often that a student can reconnect with a teacher sixty-plus years after spending time in their classroom and still have the teacher remember them!  But that is the case with my elementary school teacher, LaVerna Noland.  Back during my school years she was a young teacher, about 18, and a first-year graduate of the teachers college in Litchfield. She was new and fully qualified to teach all eight grades in my little country school. She was a good teacher, but, what made me memorable to her wasn’t my academics, it was the day I decided to check my trap line before school and ended up encountering an unpleasant surprise.

The day had started like any other. I checked my trap line on the way to school and noted that a trap that was located inside of a culvert had been sprung. I saw the tautness of the chain, but the trap and critter had retreated into the darkness of the culvert. Gingerly, I pulled on the trap chain to see what was on the other end and was rewarded with a sickening blast to the face. You guessed it; I had caught a skunk! The tug on the chain had been the signal to the skunk to let loose its fury on me in the form of its best defense: its spray. Pain from the fumes made it hard to see and breathe, and I found myself lying dazed and stinky on the ground. A kindly neighbor saw the commotion and offered to help, but the damage was already done. I was covered in skunk spray, and I still had to get to school.

When I arrived school was already in session. I don’t know if she saw me or smelled me, but Ms. Noland stopped me at the door. Her shock soon turned to sympathy when she saw how miserable I was. My face was red, my eyes were swollen and, boy, did I stink. She asked me to put my hat, coat and gloves far away outside and allowed me to take a seat in the back of the class, much to my classmates dismay. As you can imagine, it was a very long and uncomfortable day for everyone involved.

Fast forward 62 years; and I recently had the pleasure of reconnecting with this wonderful teacher. I am now 82-years-young, and my teacher, now Mrs. Donald Birkland, is also in her eighties. I stopped by her home unannounced, introduced myself as a former student and she recognized me! Not only did she remember me as the pupil who came to school reeking of skunk, she remembered that I also smuggled a garter snake into her class only two weeks into her new teaching job.

We recalled my crazy antics of yesteryear, and both had a good laugh. She was also pleased that I included the skunk story, in greater detail, in my book 70 Years of Hunting, Fishing & Trapping. 

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