The Last Skunk
Wednesday September 14
By Craig Stillwell
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
Sometimes an event can suggest a change of life is needed. For 18 year-old Steve Massender, that event came in December 1905, when he nearly died trapping skunks along the Rogue River.
Massender sold skunk pelts in Grants Pass, Oregon, for five dollars each. That winter the river nearly froze over. Along slow stretches, ice fringed the banks, leaving only a narrow channel of flowing water. One morning Massender left his cabin to check a trap he had set by the river. Within it he found the biggest skunk he had ever caught. Experience told him that drowning was the most humane way to dispatch a skunk without triggering a nasty spray.
So, skunk firmly in hand, he carefully ventured across the ice and dunked the animal into the freezing water. Crack! Massender plunged into the river. After several unsuccessful attempts to crawl up onto the ice shelf, he grew numb and resigned to die. Luckily, a stranger suddenly appeared, held out a branch, hauled him in, built a fire, and disappeared back into the woods before Massender could even utter a "thank you."
Soon thawed-out, Massender returned to his cabin to skin the last skunk of his career as a trapper.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Craig Stillwell, the program engineer is Raymond Scully. I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org
Massender, Steve, "Trappin' Skunks is a Dangerous Job!" In Patch Work: Memories of the Rogue Valley. Grants Pass, Oregon: Rogue Community College, 1975. pp. 35-36.