Slice of Victorian Life: Skunking with a Ten-Foot Pole

Modern 120-hole cribbage board

A Cribbage Board, Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes, when researching a column or even a post, a view into a slice of life from the past will emerge.  Today’s ‘slice of life’ comes to us from late 19th-century Bath, Maine.  As November wore on in 1895, skunking became popular in town.  Being a card player, ‘skunking’ makes me think of cribbage – specifically, winning a cribbage game by more than 30 points (or by more than 60, which qualifies as a double-skunk).  The men and boys of Bath, Maine, though, had a different activity in mind.  Skunking, to them, meant gathering together poles and guns, and a couple of lanterns, and setting off to hunt down skunks of the black-with-white-striped variety.  They soon discovered that guns left quite a mess; so, the preferred way to skunk was with, of course, a ten-foot pole.  Besides ridding Bath, Maine of its native skunk population (skunks were viewed as pests), they could then sell the skins for $1 to $2.50, and even sell the oil.  The skins, when dressed and dyed, were considered quite fashionable.

Striped Skunks (Mephitis mephitis)

Skunks, Image via Wikipedia


“Fall Fun.” The Bath Independent. Bath Me. 16 Nov. 1895, 3.

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