The creek continues to rumble and roar.   Trapped by the rain, wind and flooding waters, I worried about Branden.  A few days ago Jeau called me on the phone.

“Come meet your new neighbor.” She said.

I pulled on my shoes and walked up to the Ranch house.   Jeau and Charlie were cleaning the Ranch house between group events.   There is nothing else around so I was puzzled.  When I walked up Charlie greeted me at the door.

“Good!  You’re here.  Let’s go back to meet your new neighbor.”

We walked to the back patio of the house.   Skunk lightly perfumed the air.

“He’s in there.   Cutest little devil of a spotted skunk.  He’s made himself quite at home in the compost bin.”  Charlie said.  “I went to toss something in there and banged the lid.   Scared him so he gave a little puff.  Let’s see if he’s still there.”

Gently we opened the lid and inside was a tiny skunk, no bigger than my Kitty. 

“Oh, he must be young!  Look how tiny he is.”  I was so surprised.

“Nope.   He’s full grown.  The spotteds don’t get as big as other skunks do.  I named him Branden after Brandenburg Mountain.”

Branden was beautiful.  His tiny eyes looked up at us with trust that though we might peek, we wouldn’t force him to leave his little home.  I’ve known some skunks before and they were much larger with stripes running down their backs.    Those skunks were quick to spray and I always kept big cans of tomato juice on hand to give the dogs baths after unfortunate encounters.  But Branden was patient, waiting to see what we would do before he would react.  Black with white spots starting at his brow and running down his back in perfect symmetry, he looked like a kitten and it was hard to resist reaching in to scratch him behind the ears.  I could see the hole he had chewed in the hard green plastic of the bin, his own little doorway into a world of tasty orange rinds, banana peels and other assorted treats. 

“I could put a bottom on the bin to keep him out.”  Charlie said.

“But that would defeat the purpose of the compost bin.”  I replied.  “We’ll ask David what he would like to do.  I can see he’s harmless as long as we don’t rile him up, but how will our guests react?”

A few months ago a little spotted skunk wandered onto Charlie and Jeau’s property and quickly adopted them.  The skunk finds them good company, happily enjoying the treats they give him.   He eats out of Charlie’s hand.

After exchanging hellos, we decided to let Branden be and returned to what we had been doing. 

The storms have been raging all week.   Torrents of rain and wind gusts have plagued the canyon and the creek is running high with flood waters.   There was a break in the storm and I told myself it was part of my job to check the Ranch house to make sure it was weathering the storm.    I went to the house and walked through checking for any leaks or wind damage.   Finding none, I stepped out back and cautiously opened the lid of the compost bin.  Branden was curled in the same spot as before, nice and snug, chewing on an orange peel.  He looked up at me with his tiny trusting eyes as I softly said,

“Just checking up on you little guy.  Looks like you are doing okay.”

He blinked his eyes.  I softly closed the lid and went home.

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