Sleep had come immediately. I was completely exhausted after working all day with a handsaw and hammer. Still, it woke me. The scratching was determined. When I finally gained my senses, the security of my zipped-up tent had been breached. I was in my sleeping bag eyeball to eyeball with a skunk.
As a “city boy” alone in the North Woods, I possessed enough knowledge to be concerned. The gun next to me probably wasn’t going to help because I didn’t want to get sprayed. Knowing skunks sometimes carry rabies, I definitely didn’t want to get bitten.
The summer of 1969, which was the summer of my 19th birthday, Dad decided I should build a cabin as he had in his youth. He found a lot on Duck Lake in Hubbard County. The plan was sketched on a piece of paper. We picked up some lumber and headed north.
Sunday night, after getting me started, Dad headed back to Minneapolis, leaving me alone for the week. My first day solo, I worked from dawn to dusk. The physical labor left me so tired that I cooked dinner in my large tent and went straight to bed.
Camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness should have prepared me better. However, the cabins around the lake, for some reason, made me forget where I was. As I faced this scoundrel, the only thing I could think to do was hunker down in my sleeping bag, holding the top over my face. My heart was pounding like it was going to come out of my chest.
Unbelievably, I fell back asleep! In the morning, I started to crawl out of my bag only to find the skunk still in my tent. Back I went into my bag and waited until I heard it leave. The tent smelled of skunk and most of my food was gone, but I was well rested.
I finished the rustic cabin, complete with an outhouse, sandpoint well, gas lights, stove and refrigerator. It was only 24 by 36 feet with two bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen, but it was used for many years as a wonderful fishing and hunting shack.
Now with five children and 12 grandchildren, we have a little nicer place Up North to enjoy and make memories. I am forever grateful my visitor wasn’t a bear!
Gary Linder, Brooklyn Center