A Tomato Bath

Read more journal entries in Andi’s Attic >>

September 1886 (I warned you these might not fall in order. Just enjoy!)

“Oh, no! Not again!” I have to say, I was pretty annoyed at finding another empty next of eggs. What could be going after them? I banged the egg basket on the side of the henhouse and growled. “No eggs for breakfast.”

Then I saw it, and I jumped back a foot. No! A skunk. Really? Turning tail, I fled for the house, grabbed the rifle, and headed for that pesky critter. Just as I rounded the corner of the henhouse, Riley poked his head out of the barn, where he was going about the morning chores. “Hey, what are you up to?”

Ever since Riley taught me to finally shoot straight, I felt invincible. If I could kill a dangerous rattlesnake, I could for sure take care of a skunk. “There are no eggs for the third day! And I found the culprit. That skunk!” I pointed the rifle a safe distance away.

Riley grabbed Tucker just in time and locked him in the barn. “No, Andi!” he called just as I was about to pull the trigger. I had the critter in my sights.

I sighed and lowered the rifle. “What now? It’s loaded. I checked.”

Riley cross the yard, walking well around the skunk, and gently took the rifle from my hands. He smiled. “Surely you know better than to kill a skunk. He will spray everywhere as he dies. No, you let me take care of this.”

“How?” I scowled.

“I’ll trap him in a trap he can’t escape. Skunks will never spray themselves.

“Sure you will,” I mumbled. But I let my husband take care of the skunk.

True to his word, Riley caught the skunk that night. Grinning, he showed me the trap. No wire cage this, but completely enclosed. “How do you even know a skunk is in there?” I asked, doubtful. Maybe a barn cat had set it off.

“Oh, there’s no doubt what I caught.” He smiled. With trap in hand, he mounted Dakota. “I’ll be gone a couple of hours. I’ll take this fellow so far up into the foothills that he will never find his way back.” He whistled for Tucker. “C’mon, boy. Let’s go on our errand.” He turned to me. “I’ll be hungry when I get back. I would like eggs and bacon.”

I grinned. “All right!” When I checked for eggs after Riley left, I found four brown jewels. Yay! I got everything I needed for a celebration breakfast. Then I waited. Then waited some more.

Almost three hours later, I heard galloping hooves nearing the house. Riley was home. And a good thing. I was more than a little hungry. But . . . as I opened the back door to step onto the porch, I was overwhelmed by a strong stench. Oh. No. Had Tucker chased the beast after Riley let it loose? Oh, well. Good thing my pantry was stocked with this summer’s canned tomatoes. Most of them from Mother, but I had done my share of sweating over the canner too.

However, as I stepped out on the porch, Tucker was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Riley was walking up the steps, his hands held away from his sides and his hat in his hands. Just then, the horrid truth hit me. Tucker hadn’t been sprayed by a skunk. No, Riley had! How in the world had that happened?

After my first sense of shock, I couldn’t keep myself from laughing. He looked . . . well, he looked like something the cat had dragged in. His clothes were moist and limp, and perspiration streamed down his forehead. The late afternoon sun hadn’t decided to do us any favors, and that fact caused the smell from the skunk to be more acute. He looked up at me, his eyes rivaling anything I’ve ever seen in Tucker’s puppy-dog look. “Andi, help.”

I smothered my laughter. Riley was suffering, and here I was amusing myself at his expense. “Head for the horse trough,” I ordered, backing away. “I’ll get the tomatoes. They’re the only thing I know off that will kill the smell.” Dirty darn. My beautiful tomatoes would now be used on the outside. What a waste of a lot of work!

I grabbed several jars of the quickly diminishing tomatoes and headed out to the trough. As I did so, I caught sight of Tucker cowering under the back porch. I smirked. The smell must have reminded him of all his encounters with the smelliest four-legged beast that ever lived.

Riley had removed his shirt and trousers. He shook his head when I said he’d best remove everything. “No, ma’am,” he refused. “I won’t be caught with my drawers down if our ranch hands come back early or worse–somebody from the Circle C rides up. It would be just my luck.”

I shrugged. “All right then. Sit up.” I popped the lid from one of the jars and made my way over to him, holding my breath. I quickly decided I’d have to snatch a clothespin from the line when I went back to fetch the second jar.

Shutting his eyes tight, Riley braced for the smooth, slippery goo. I quickly emptied it over his head and ran back to the porch. I grabbed a second and third jar and then snatched a clothespin from the line. After making sure my nose was tightly closed, I opened the second jar and dumped it over his shoulders.

I had just pried the lid off the third jar when I realized something awful. A dark, red rash was appearing on Riley’s face, chest, and back, right in the path of the tomato juice. A horrifying thought crossed my mind. “Riley, are you allergic to tomatoes?”

His gaze followed mine, and his eyes widened. Without answering, he quickly dove beneath the water. Once, twice, three times, till every speck of the canned vegetable was floating in the horse’s drinking trough. “I can’t say that I’ve ever had to have a tomato bath before,” Riley said. “So I’ve never had a chance to find out.”

We scanned the rash. It wasn’t leaving as quickly as it had come, and I made a mental note to be careful whenever I cooked with tomatoes. I grabbed some clean clothes of the line and brought them over.

“Thanks. I think.” He grabbed the clothes off the line and I handed him a bar of lye soap. Then he headed down to the creek to get as much of the smell off as he could.

After he left, I set about putting the place back in order. I drained the horse trough and pumped for several minutes to refill it. Just a trace of red remained. I didn’t think the horses would mind. I had lost three cans of precious tomatoes, but I still had plenty in reserve for the next time Tucker decided to take on another skunk.

Riley came back smelling slightly better, but he was pretty closed-mouthed about what had actually happened. I could tell right away that he was in no mood to share his skunk adventure. It might be more willing after the rest of the stink goes away. Probably a few more days, poor Riley. I’ll wait until then.

Published by Andi Carter

I'm the main character in the Circle C Adventures series. I live on a huge cattle ranch in 1880s California. These are my adventures.

4 thoughts on “A Tomato Bath

  1. Nothing is worse than skunk odor! Ad yes, tomatoes or tomato juice is the only remedy. Oh, my, Riley being allergic did NOT help things. Neither did your laughing, Andi!


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