This is a true story. Only the species have been changed to protect the innocent.
Once upon a time there was a mother bird whose nest had been tossed and blown by mighty winds until mere pieces of it, fragments that held her precious young, clung precariously to the forked branch where it rested. The mother bird was sorry she hadn’t made her nest stronger, but she’d built it by herself, without the help of her mate, and it was the best she’d been able to do.
The mother bird could have considered her plight quietly. She could have gone about the business of finding worms and bugs to feed to her baby and ignored the fact that stronger winds were on their way. She could have tucked her head beneath her wing and mourned the inevitable future loss of her nest. But this mother loved her baby too much for that.
Instead, she sang out. She flew far and wide, singing her loudest song to every creature of the forest. She sang about the nest that was falling apart and the baby whose safety depended on it. In her strong, clear voice, she asked for help, if any could offer it, and the other forest creatures heard her, loud and clear.
“We can pull strong grasses,” the rabbits said in response, and began to do so at once.
“And we can carry twigs,” said the squirrels, who sprang into action without waiting for anyone to tell them what needed to be done.
“Leaves,” said the robins. “We’ll pick leaves.”
The redbirds sang out to the rabbits and the squirrels and the robins, “Bring us your grasses and your twigs and your leaves, and we’ll work together to weave them tightly onto the branches.”
And off to work they all went. They pulled grasses, carried twigs, picked leaves, wove it all together, and stood back to observe the nest they’d built. They knew the nest was strong enough to withstand the next mighty wind and even a few strong gusts after that. The mother bird sang in the nest beside her baby, and all the forest creatures felt touched by the magic they’d created together.
All the forest creatures, that is, except one.
At the other side of the forest lived a skunk. He was once a popular creature in the woods, but that was before he began to spray his putrid scent into the faces of the other animals at his whim. If one creature remarked, “Look what wonderful long ears the rabbit has,” the skunk sprayed the rabbit at their first encounter.
“My ears,” said the skunk, “hear better than the rabbit’s, and what’s more, I heard first.”
If another creature remarked, “Doesn’t the squirrel have a glorious, fluffy tail?,” the skunk could not rest until he had sprayed the squirrel.
“My tail is the most wonderful tail of all,” said the skunk. “And all the other creatures only wish they could spray like I do.”
If the robin said of the redbird, “Those are the most beautiful feathers I’ve ever seen,” the skunk sprayed the redbird. And the robin.
“You think red is the most beautiful color?” the skunk asked in disbelief. “Look at me. Look at my shiny black fur with its white stripe down the back, the stripe that I designed and generously granted God permission to use. Doesn’t it just take your breath away?”
Most of the forest animals tried not to cross the skunk's path at all. Some of the others who had known the skunk for a while, and many who knew him only by reputation, had tried to get along with the skunk by agreeing with everything he said before that special day. “Of course, you are the most beautiful,” they’d always said. “Your ears are wonderful, and your tail...oh, please, could you show your tail again? Very carefully, perhaps?” They’d always said those things before because they knew one thing for certain: should they disagree with the skunk, they were in for a powerful spraying. It was easier to befriend the sprayer than to be the one getting sprayed.
By the time the day arrived when the creatures built the nest together, the skunk had developed an unfortunate problem. The trouble was that he’d used his sprayer too frequently. He’d sprayed and sprayed and sprayed until the forest reeked of his scent, and all the other creatures had long since learned that his stink wouldn’t kill them. The skunk, who had not yet learned that same lesson, continued to spray at every opportunity.
And so, as the forest creatures gathered together and admired their handiwork, they weren’t too surprised when the skunk ambled out of the bushes and walked slowly toward them, curious about what had drawn them all together.
Said a rabbit, “Oh, here comes the skunk. We knew he’d show up sooner or later.”
Said one squirrel to another, “He has a reputation for spraying, but don’t worry about it. The scent won’t cling for long.”
“Well, look at this,” said the skunk, making his way into the center of the circle. “I see you’ve all worked together to build a nest; isn’t that special?” The skunk looked around from one animal to the next, studying their faces with a smirk on his own. “You’ve wasted your time, squirrels,” the skunk said. “You should have been gathering nuts. And you,” he said to the rabbits, “what’s in this for you? You should be out digging burrows.” The skunk roared with laughter at the other animals. “This is ridiculous,” he said. “I could have built that nest faster and better all by myself.”
At that very moment, a breeze kicked up and the leaves on the trees began to stir. The skunk, startled by the movement, stopped laughing and planted his front feet firmly on the ground. He lifted his back legs, raised his tail, and began to spray with all the fury he could muster. Before the animals could move, a mighty wind blew in from above, and the animals watched in wonder as a powerful little twister swirled right in the middle of their circle, completely surrounding the skunk.
As the wind died down, the animals looked up at the tree, not at the skunk lying soiled and disheveled at their feet. They smiled and congratulated each other as they saw the mother bird standing on the edge of her very sturdy nest, feeding her baby. And they felt really good.
Then a beautiful, gentle redbird flew low around the circle of his forest friends and sang in his sweetest voice, “You know, the skunk was once a magnificent creature; you have to give him that. He does have perky little ears, and that fancy tail with it’s sprayer attachment is a powerful tool. That stripe design is pretty awesome, too.” All the other creatures nodded in agreement. “The sad thing,” the redbird sang, “is that all the stink has finally stuck to the skunk.”