This west-side neighborhood is crawling with skunks! All night long, they're doing their smelly thing. A skunk family has dug a home under my house. I have tried mothballs, ammonia-soaked rags and coyote urine to drive them out. Heaven forbid they die under there. Any other suggestions, so we all can live in peace again? Seriously! - Martha McClellan
It was a couple years ago, when Mrs. Action Line wasn't Mrs. Action Line just yet.
One night, just before leaving for a much-anticipated dinner date, Action Line went outside to check out something moving beneath the bird feeder.
A startled skunk nailed Action Line squarely in the forehead with a blast of vile fluid.
Needless to say, Action Line immediately stripped down naked and fled inside to take a shower.
If you ever have been sprayed by a skunk, you know that a scalding hot shower and eight applications of shampoo will leave your skin bright red and your hair silky smooth.
But you still smell like skunk.
Of course, the soon-to-be Mrs. Action Line chuckled when informed by phone that dinner would be delayed 30 minutes on account of varmints.
She was even more amused when Action Line showed up at her door smelling like Pepé Le Pew.
"Oh, ick! Into the shower with you!" she said, handing over a large bottle of V8. "Use this. It's supposed to help."
Washing with tomato-juice cocktail turned the shower into that scene from "Psycho."
Ten bucks of V8 went down the drain, the bathroom was trashed and Action Line still had a whiff of the species Mephitis mephitis, the skunk's scientific name that means "noxious gas, noxious gas."
Thank goodness for the wine with dinner. After a couple of glasses, the faint skunk scent doesn't bother you nearly as much.
But that doesn't help you with your problem, does it?
So let's turn to the experts, the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
Basically, you have to channel your inner Dick Cheney. Think of the skunks as al-Qaida insurgents, and you are authorized to use "enhanced interrogation techniques."
Stuff a bunch of ammonia-soaked rags under your house. Tie a string to the rags so you can pull them out to re-soak daily. Ammonia vapors irritate the eyes of skunks. The more rags the better; you probably were using too few the first go-round.
Next, place several floodlights or lamps under the house to disrupt skunks' sleep patterns. Never allow the pests to rest.
At the same time, place a junky radio under the house. Crank up the music or have the radio on static noise between stations. This might also irritate your neighbors as well as the skunks, so you might have to skip this tactic.
"What you need to do is make it as uncomfortable for the skunk family as possible," said Heather Morris, administrative assistant at the Durango office of the Colorado Division of Wildlife. "Make their home under your home stinky, bright and loud."
If you have a family of skunks, it will take time for them to find a new home, so Morris advises using the treatment nonstop for a minimum of a week.
Once the skunks are driven out, you have to prevent their return.
Get a bag of cheap flour and sprinkle a thick line around the perimeter of your house. When the skunks enter or leave, you'll see little white footprints. Barricade their entry and exit points after they have left.
Mothballs don't work because they are designed for small spaces.
"And I don't know about coyote urine," Morris laughed. "I've never heard of that one before."
Last week's potshot at Durango School District 9-R's sloganeering vinyl banner fills the Mea Culpa Mailbag.
"If only you'd use your powers for good instead of evil," wrote a disappointed Chloe James.
She said the column was "a wasted opportunity and a huge disservice to your community."
"You could have helped be a part of the solution instead of a part of the problem, which is most definitely what your writing was."
Taking the opposite view was "Bill," who asked for anonymity.
"Great column," he wrote.
"I'd also like to add that if we're 'Committed to Excellence in Education,' we might want to include proofreading. On page 24 of the glossy 2009-10 Student and Family Success Guide that every student brought home, it reads: 'We will fully engage every student in meaningful, relevant, authoentic, learning experiences.'"I had an 'authoentic' experience once, but it had nothing to do with education. Anyway, thanks for stirring the soup!"
E-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you celebrate Labor Day by putting away your white belts and white shoes until next summer.