He was a farmer out on the Canadian prairies. The year was 1897. For Danylo Babchook it was his first winter in the new country and he was all alone. His family was still back in the Ukraine as he had set out to scout the new land in country known as Canada. He had heard that for ten dollars you could get 160 acres of the most fertile land in the world in the province of Alberta. So Danylo had come to see what the country had to offer and yes it was true that there was 160 acres of fertile soil for ten dollars. But nothing could have conditioned him for the hardships that he was about to face. It was not the cold, the hunger, and the privations that were so brutal and demoralizing. That was something that he had become accustomed to as a serf while Ukraine was under rule of the Austrian Hungarian Empire. It was the loneliness and isolation that he faced on a day to day basis. Something that he never expected to be so soul destroying, a million times worse than famine, war or the cold.
Danylo was supposed to have arrived to Alberta in early spring which would have given him time to work the land, but things got delayed and he was held up and did not get to claim his quarter section of land until late October. And this year the snow and the cold had come early and Danylo knew that he was going to be in for a long winter.
Danylo had managed to build his shack into a side of a hill and loaded up with supplies that would last him for several months. Now it was time to go into hibernation. This was something that he had never experienced before. Back home in Ukraine he had his family to keep him company, but here he had nobody, not even a dog as he could not afford to feed it. At first the isolation was managable but then the haunting feeling and awareness that if he was to die, nobody would find him until the spring time thaw became a reality. The dread swept over him. He looked out the window as the wind gusted snow across the dusk sky of the prairies. A pack of coyotes trekked bravely across the barren land trying to find shelter in the bush. Danylo sat down trying to figuring out how he was going to kill the many days ahead.
After two weeks of isolation he felt that he was starting to hallucinate, as he saw visions of things floating in front of him. Several times he had pulled out his shotgun ready to shoot the spectres but there was nothing there.
Then one night just as he was stoking the fire and getting ready to lay down to sleep he heard a scratching at the door. He grabbed his shotgun, walked to the door and opened it slowly. It was a skunk that was shivering and nearly dead. Danylo was not worried about being sprayed by the skunk because the skunk had come to him seeking food and shelter.
Danylo picked up the skunk and brought it over to the fire and fed it whatever food he had. Slowly, day after day the skunk returned to good health and Danylo had a friend who he named, "Stripe". Every night Danylo would sit in front of the fire and the skunk would hop up onto his lap to be petted. The two had become great friends. Danylo would talk to the skunk who appeared to be listening to him, making strange gurgling noises in response to Danylo's queries.
Then one morning the skunk went to wake his master but could not as Danylo had died in his sleep. The skunk tried to revive him by making a series of high pitched noises and pounding on Danylo's chest with his paws. But it was use. The skunk knew Danylo was dead.
The day turned to night and farmhouse grew colder and there was no one to stoke the fire. Soon the fire was gone and the inevitable set in for the skunk. He crawled up on his master's chest shivering, he put his head down and fell asleep hoping to join his master in the next world.