Midnight Invasion into Hall
cabin on the Smokies. Altitude
4,800 ft. The room with window
is in Tenn.; the other in N.C.
Nearest house in N.C. 5 miles,
& 2000 ft. below; in Tenn.,
8 miles; to the westward. On
clear days the mts. & valleys
for over 100 miles in every
direction are visible from this
point, with no sign of cultivation
save in Tenn. The cabin is frequently
in or above the clouds. Clingman
Dome & several other mts.
higher than Mt. Washington are
our neighbors. All peaks covered
with dense forest save a few
`balds' of 10 or 15 acres. Trees
on summit are battle-scarred;
but those on lower slopes &
coves are 100 to 150 x 6 to
the following account to the
1916 edition of Camping and
Woodcraft as part of the
chapter "Pests of the Woods."
In the first edition, this chapter
focused exclusively on insects
and arachnids. Here, the skunk
is one of the select mammals
to enter the ranks of Kephart's
Another notoriously fearless pest
is the skunk. It will turn tail quickly
enough, but nothing on earth will
make it run. If a skunk takes it into
his head to raid your camp he will
step right in without any precautions
whatever. Then he will nose through
all of your possessions, walk over
you if you be in his way, and forty
men cannot intimidate him.
Once, when I was spending the summer in a herders' hut, on a summit
of the Smoky Mountains, a skunk burrowed under the cabin wall and came
up through the earthen floor. It was about midnight. My two companions
slept in a pole bunk against the wall, and I had an army cot in the middle
of the room. It was cold enough for an all-night fire on the hearth.
I awoke with the uneasy feeling that some intruder was moving about
in the darkness. There was no noise, and my first thought was of rattlesnakes,
which were numerous in that region. I sat up and lit the lantern, which
hung over my head. One glance was enough. "Boys," I warned in
a stage whisper, "for the love of God, don't breathe; there's a skunk
at the foot of my bed!"
The animal was not in the least disconcerted by the light, but proceeded
leisurely to inspect the premises. It went under my cot and nosed around
there for five mortal minutes, while I lay rigid as a corpse.
Then Doc sneezed. I heard Andy groan from under his blanket: "You
damn fool: now we'll get it!"
But we didn't. Madame Polecat waddled to their bunk, and I had a vision
of two fellows sweating blood.
Then she moved over to the grub chest, found some excelsior lying
beside it, and deliberately went to work on making a nest.
An hour passed. I simply had to take a smoke. My tobacco was on a
shelf right over the skunk. I risked all, arose very quietly, reached
over the beast, got my tobacco, and retired like a ghost to the other
end of the cabin to warm myself at the fire. We were prisoners; for the
only door was a clapboard affair on wooden hinges that skreeked like a
The visitor, having made its bed, did not yet feel like turning in,
but decided to find out what for a bare-legged, white-faced critter I
was, anyhow. It came straight over to the fireplace and sniffed my toes.
The other boys offered all sorts of advice, and I talked brimstone back
at them - we had found that pussy didn't care a hang for human speech
so long as it was gently modulated.
That was a most amiable female of her species. True, she investigated
all our property that was within reach, but she respected it, and finally
she cuddled up in the excelsior, quite satisfied with her new home.
To cut an awfully long story short, the polecat held us spellbound
until daybreak. Then she crawled out through her burrow, and we instantly
fled through our skreeky door. Doc had a shotgun in his hand and murder
in his heart. Not being well posted on skunk reflexes, he stepped up within
ten feet and blew the animal's head clean off by a simultaneous discharge
of both barrels. Did that headless skunk retaliate? It did, brethren,
- Camping and Woodcraft, Second Edition, Volume 1, pages 260-261.