On Dates, Squished Skunks, and Flat Cats… The Misadventure Series

At this point, down where the speed limit sign is, I ran over a skunk in the summer of 1958, undoubtably impressing the young woman I was on a date with.

Do you remember your first dates in high school? Were they roaring successes or unmitigated disasters? I suspect probably somewhere in between. But I doubt you ran over a skunk. As you may recall, I had no dates my freshman year. In fact, girls scared the heck out of me. Things began to brighten up the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, however. Read on…


I actually had a couple of real dates the summer of my freshman-sophomore year thanks to Paula and mom. Her mother was obviously encouraging the process. Our first date was a joint activity that included Mom, Boyfriend, Paula and me going out to dinner in the small town of Sutter Creek, about twenty miles away from Diamond Springs over curvy Highway 49. After we filled up on Italian food, Mom and Boyfriend promptly climbed in the back and suggested I drive home.

Small foothill towns like Sutter Creek along California’s historic Highway 49 are fun to visit and often have great restaurants.

“Um,” I noted nervously, “I only have a learner’s permit.”

“That’s okay, it will be good practice,” Mom jumped in and stated before I could add that I had just obtained the permit the week before.

Paula, meanwhile, was waiting for me to open the door for her on the passenger side of the car. She gave me an encouraging smile and my options dropped to zero. Any further hesitation would appear wimpy. After doing the gentlemanly thing for Paula, I dutifully climbed into the driver’s seat and miraculously found the keyhole and lights. Minimal gear grinding got us out of town and I breathed an audible sigh of relief. We had made it just past Plymouth when I ran over the skunk. He reeked revenge by becoming a virtuoso of glandular activity.

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Boyfriend said as the first powerful whiffs of eau de skunk came blasting through the air vents, “it happens all of the time.”

“Yeah, sure,” I mumbled to myself through tongue-biting teeth, “young men always run down skunks on first dates, especially first dates with Mom and Boyfriend along.”

Fortunately, I made it home without further incident. Before continuing my ‘Perils with Paula’ story, however, I am going to digress to a similar odoriferous event that took place in the same general area some 25 years later. While working for the American Lung Association of Sacramento, I had created what is known as the Trek Program, a series of multi-day outdoor adventures that people go on as fundraisers. At the time this particular event took place, I was living in Alaska and ALA Sacramento had hired George and Nancy Redpath out of Davis, California to run its Treks. They had a popular three-day bicycling event that incorporated a portion of the same route that I had traveled the night of the fateful skunk incident. To add another element of fun to their Trek, the Redpaths had incorporated a roadside scavenger hunt with a sail-cat as one of the items.

To the uninitiated, a sail-cat is a cat that has had a close encounter with a logging truck’s wheels, after which it resembles a furry pancake with legs. Given several days of curing in the Sierra foothill sun, the cat can actually be picked and sailed in much the same way you would a Frisbee, hence the name. Although tossing one has provided dogs with a new way to chase cats and play Frisbee at the same time, it is a sport without many adherents. Even dogs have serious reservations.

Not surprisingly, one Trekker managed to find a sail cat, load it on his bike, and dutifully turn it in at the end of the day. The person won the scavenger hunt, which he should have considering his extended association with an umpteen-day dead cat. But this is not the end of the story. Two other couples became involved in the dead cat saga. I’ll call them Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice to protect the innocent.

Bob and Carol finished the Trek, hopped in their car and naively drove home that evening unaware that they were carrying a fellow traveler. When they arrived back in Sacramento and opened their trunk, lo and behold, there was the dead cat. Bob and Carol had a good idea it was Ted and Alice who had stowed the unwanted passenger in their car. They vowed to get even. As it turned out, both couples had spouses who worked for the State of California. A devious plot was hatched. The next day Ted received one of those large, inner office forwarding envelopes in his in-basket. It was rather bulky so he opened it with interest. Out slid the sail cat, your tax dollars at work.

Unlike Aunt Tilley’s fruitcake, the cat apparently ended his strange after-life journey at that point.

Likewise, one might assume that running over the skunk would have ended my relationship with Paula. But there was one more date. It is a testimony to how much Paula’s mother was committed to the relationship that she loaned us her car, which I drove illegally on my learner’s permit. Paula and I went on an old-fashioned picnic to Buck’s Bar, a 49er-mining site on the Consumnes River. I actually had a young woman, out in the woods, alone. It was my fantasy date. As far as I can recall though, and I would recall otherwise, I behaved myself disgustingly well. So did Paula.

The Consumnes River. My kind of place to go on a date.

You won’t want to miss next Friday’s post where I wrap up my MisAdventure series for now. I actually survive high school and on graduation day am offered a choice (in front of the student body): Graduate or go to jail.

TUESDAY’S POST: It’s time. My thousand my trek starts on June 17th! Am I ready?

34 thoughts on “On Dates, Squished Skunks, and Flat Cats… The Misadventure Series

  1. ‘ a virtuoso of glandular activity’… that is brilliant Curt. I’ve never heard of a sail cat but oh I have definitely seen one. Happily not in my mailbox. 😊

  2. You’re hitting me with a heavy dose of nostalgia. I sure miss those little old mining towns along Hwy 49. I’d mention some of my favorite restaurants along that route if I could remember their names. One was truly great Italian place in Jackson (I think?). Then there was another Basque restaurant somewhere along there. One or the other or both served family style. It was fabulous. I wonder if any of them are still there?

      • Oh yeah! Poor Reds was a frequent stop for me and folks I worked with. Another favorite spot was the ribs up in Pollock Pines (trying without success to think of the name.)

      • Yep, Fifty Grande it is!!! Thanks for the memories (and the refresher for names!) Do you happen to know if any of them are still in business?

      • You are welcome. Poor Reds still is. They’ve remodeled it extensively. I haven’t been there since, however. Not sure about Fifty Grande but I think it is.

  3. My pal Rod was the first of us to get a car. One evening we had a date with two girls and Rod drove. He was showing off and on the way home went too fast over a hump-back bridge. Unknown to us at the precise moment he took out the bottom of the sump when he landed, We were invited in for coffee and half an hour later when it came time to leave all of the oil that should have been in the engine was a sticky black mess on the girlfriends parent’s drive. We had to clean it down as best we could before pushing the car half a mile back to Rod’s place. We never saw those two girls again!

    • Oh, much worse, Andrew. I suspect the family remembered you for quite a while… every time they saw the remains of your oil spill. The skunks smell usually disappears in a couple of weeks! 🙂 –Curt

  4. And there was I thinking I’d be learning about an exotic new kind of cat!! 😀😀 Curt, how come I am not surprised that a skunk featured on your first date! Now, what can go wrong with a picnic in the forest?! I’m laughing at the choice you were offered … I have a feeling you’ve always made an impression wherever you’ve gone in life!

  5. We’ve been driving around the US since the beginning of May. Every now and then I catch a whiff of skunk. From now on, every whiff will make me think of you. haha

  6. I definitely remember some of my first dates, but not with skunks, thank goodness. I’m getting excited about your upcoming trip, and I want to wish you all the best. Here’s hoping you’re loaded for any happenstance!

  7. Such a lovely and cosy town. This story was an excellent read and it definitely made me laugh. Looking forward to reading about the wrap up of your MisAdventure series!

    • Thanks, Lydia. Growing up in a small town had its advantages, and disadvantages. 🙂 MisAdventures will continue after I return from my thousand-mile backpack trip, but it will tackle the 60s. Plenty of misadventures there. (grin) –Curt

  8. Funny. My very first date was to a movie with an 18-year-old, whom I thought was practically an old man to my 16 years. He got permission from my dad though, ha ha. He was, like you, a perfect gentleman and never even asked for a kiss goodnight. Awww.

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