The doorbell rang at an odd hour. Our doorbell never rings at an odd hour, even during the busy Christian Offshoot Missionary Season or the Girl Scout Cookie Inquisition.

The doorbell rang at an odd hour. Our doorbell never rings at an odd hour, even during the busy Christian Offshoot Missionary Season or the Girl Scout Cookie Inquisition.

But there it was. Ding-ding.

“Who is it?” the Boy yelled, running down the hall toward the front door in his usual mode of evening dress – bedtime casual.

There are three types of male child nightwear. Bedtime formal: the solid primary color of a mini Hugh Hefner (good for him). Bedtime semi-formal: usually a two-piece festooned with pictures of Scooby-Doo or SpongeBob SquarePants. And bedtime casual: Hanes underwear that are more or less still white. You know how boys are.

“I don’t know,” I said. “But they probably don’t want to see your butt crack.”

He pulled his underwear up under his armpits like the little old men in Miami and scampered back down the hall.

Good question though. Who would unexpectedly ring our doorbell at dusk? This was usually reserved for people with badges bearing bad news.

I open the door and found my backyard neighbor and his daughter on our stoop. Since they weren’t holding copies of “Watchtower,” or a Thin Mint order form, I felt pretty comfortable.

“Hi,” my neighbor said. “There’s a skunk in my back yard.”

I grew up on a Missouri farm, and seeing a coyote, skunk or even a badger in the backyard seemed pretty normal, like Bigfoot is to Canadians. But since my family and I moved to the big city (population 12,000 on a good day), I never expect wildlife in my yard short of the neighborhood kids.

“It’s acting funny,” our neighbor continued. “It might have distemper or rabies.”

Hearing there’s a wild animal with a potentially deadly disease in an area our children were playing in earlier is a lot like an adjuster saying, “your house has asbestos,” smiling and giving you a coupon to Denny’s.

“OK,” I said slowly.

“I just wanted to let you know because I’m going to shoot it, bag it and dump it,” he said. “I didn’t want you to worry if you saw me walking across your yard with a rifle.”

“Rifle,” the Boy shouted from the hall, then giggled incomprehensibly.

I thanked my neighbors, they walked into their yard and immediately became an Offutt family story – The Day the Skunk Went Down.

My family ran through the house and piled onto our back deck like a bunch of hicks into the tent of a circus freak show. Our neighbor came out of his house with a rifle.

“Cool,” the Boy said, his bedroom casual fanny bopping around the deck, trying to get a better look. “Where’s the skunk?”

Our neighbor walked to a corner of his yard to where we all saw the skunk twitching and he shot it. That was it. Gun, skunk, circle of life, underwear, rabies, rifle, bedtime. Such is small town life.