Playing Possum

I’m not sure if its due to the fact that it’s gotten cold here pretty quickly in Nashville, or if it’s just the time of year, or all the construction going on in our neighborhood or what, but it’s safe to say there has been a bit of a varmint invasion in our area.  My hilarious friends Paige and MK have begun a “ministry for squirrels in need of a fresh start” and have relocated several bushy-tailed friends out of their yards.  The cashier in the Home Depot the other day mentioned he’d pulled two racoons out of his attic (shudder).  And then this past Sunday, we found a possum in our yard.

We knew that there were possums in the hood….we’d seen two baby ones hiding under the shed in the back yard last year, one up a tree in the alleyway behind the house, and then our friend John had caught one eating my tomatoes one night back when I was trying to grow a garden.  But all had been quiet on the o’possum front for a while, so we’d kind of forgotten about it.  And then on Sunday morning I was using the leaf blower to clean off our back deck and I saw some commotion in one of the bushes.  I assumed it was one of the chickens or Booger the cat, all of whom were roaming around while I fixed up the yard.  But then a second later I heard Keith yelling at me to come and see what he’d found and then I saw the unmistakeable skin tail and realized that he’d found an unwanted little creature lurking about.

Possibly the best part of the photo below is that I happened to be wearing a “Possum Town Marathon” t-shirt.  Mary-Hall and I are both from Columbus, Mississippi, dubbed “Possum Town” by Native Americans until it earned its current monkier in 1821.  There’s even an annual BBQ festival called the “Possum Town Pig Fest.”  Believe it or not, I grabbed this t-shirt out of my drawer that morning not knowing I’d come face to face with it’s namesake a few hours later.

Me with our catch.

Me with our catch.

What ensued was nothing short of the makings of a great “you might be a redneck if…..” joke.  When the little critter refused to scurry out the back gate that Keith had opened, an all out chase began.  After about 10 minutes, we were able to corner him until he ran into a cat-carrier that I had snatched out of the shed just in the nick of time.  We took a few photos of our friend and then relocated him a few miles down the road to a little-used historic marker with lots of bushes and hiding places.

Little critter hiding out in the cat carrier.

“Well hello there!”  – Little critter hiding out in the cat carrier.

My friends were totally weird-ed out by this story.  “Possums creep me out,” MK texted me followed quickly by Mary-Hall with the exact same text.  (seriously.) But not me.  I have a bit of a possum affinity stemming back to when I was five years old and we found “Dusty” in our garage one chilly morning.  His momma had met with an unfortunate end and this tiny critter was huddled next to the warmth of a large appliance.  My mom had a soft spot for animals so we took this little guy in without a second thought.  He lived with us for about a month or so until he was big enough to have a good shot at making it on his own in the woods next to our house.

Bethany and Dusty the Possum - November 1987

Bethany and Dusty the Possum – November 1987

Dusty the Possum

Dusty the Possum

Apparently things haven’t changed much since I was five…..my grown-up response to finding a critter in the backyard is to blog about it.  But as a kid I wrote a story about it.  The title was brilliant; “About a Possum We Have.”  And because my ability to spell did not match my ability to string words together, I dictated the whole thing to my mom who typed it out.  (Major mom points for that one.  Especially since that was in the pre-computer days and mom did the whole thing on her typewriter.)  I flipped through the pages to bring you a few quotes.  I’m pretty sure I was smarter at five than I am now.

“All possums have prehensile tails, like our possum’s.  Have you seen a monkey hang by its tail?  Well, possums can too, That is what “prehensile” means. His tail looks like skin; very little hair is on his tail.” (clearly mom had taken advantage of the situation to help me do a little research on possums and had explained the word “prehensile.”)

“We were also surprised when we looked in a book and found that possums have 50 teeth….” “We were really surprised because at his age he has teeth, and sharp ones too; whereas a human being baby his age would not…..”  “Now he is even crunching hard Cat Chow.  He eats it like squirrels eat acorns, holding the Cat Chow in his front paws.”

An illustration of "Dusty" from my story "About a Possum We Have."  Clearly my writing skills were more developed than my art skills.

An illustration of “Dusty” from my story “About a Possum We Have.” Clearly my writing skills were more developed than my art skills.

Another illustration and part of the typed story, "About A Possum We Have."

Another illustration and part of the typed story, “About A Possum We Have.”

And because I totally couldn’t resist it, here are both photos taken exactly 28 years apart, side by side.  Pretty much I still look the same.

Then and Now: November 1987 and November 2013.

Bethany, a friend to possums: Then and Now: November 1987 and November 2013.

So there you have it.  Never a dull moment around here.  Anyone else have critters lurking in your yards?

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About bethanybordeaux

I fiddle around a bit.

6 responses to “Playing Possum”

  1. Jennifer Taylor says :

    We have a fox (or foxes) around our new house. He hasn’t said anything yet. I’ve also seen some deer, and the obvious squirrels and such. Who knows what else lurks on our street? 🙂

    • bethanybordeaux says :

      Hahaha. Let me know if you find our what the fox says. I think foxes are adorable although I probably wouldn’t want to mess with one.

  2. Mary-Hall says :

    Oh my gracious. Seriously, I can not handle this post, from the t-shirt to the cat carrier to the essay to your sweet 5 year old fingers on that creepy baby possum tail. Once, 3rd grade-ish, my dad caught a grown possum and carried it around by its (pre-hensile) tail all afternoon, to a local radio station and also so us kids could see it when we got home from school. Whenever it tried to bite him, he would just sort of bop it on the head with a meat mallet.

  3. Barbara Daniel says :

    I’m so glad the “Ellie May Clampett” in me rubbed off on you! I remember taking Dusty to several classrooms at Tarver Rendon Elementary to educate the children on the finer points of North America’s only marsupial. To answer your “critter” question, Arjay was playing with an anole the other day and flopped his body down on it (as if to hide it). I gently moved him and the anole crawled up onto my hand. I then carried him as Harmony and I walked up and down the street and finally let it go on a forsythia bush.

  4. pat says :

    I loved this post and know your love of critters is one of the many reasons I love you so much. It appears you have always had a wonderful way with words which has continue to the present. I also love your Mom for teaching you the love of critters at an early age. I’m so glad you found the little fellow a new home.

  5. Kelly Carter says :

    A few years back, my wife brought home 8 baby possums from her job at an animal clinic. The mother had been killed by a car, but the babies survived. We raised them, keeping 3 as adults. First, we discovered that baby possums (very young ones, not weaned) must have a very special diet or the basically go lame and eventually die. There is a website for some kind of opossum association that has the “secret” diet but they won’t publish it unless you join their association and pay dues. Well, my wife figured out the diet somehow and most of the babies survived, but we did witness the lameness from a “wrong” diet. I learned several things about possums: in my home state of Georgia, it’s illegal to own a possum without a special license (yes, we broke the law); they can be domesticated quite easily; they are very clean, much like cats–they clean themselves like cats; they don’t have very sophisticated behavior–they basically walk around and sniff for food, but still, you learn to appreciate their cuteness; if you put babies on your bare back and let them walk all over you, their little cold padded feet feel SO GREAT; they are NOT the dirty, disgusting, vicious creatures that they are stereotyped to be; they would make pretty cool pets if they were legal. Oh, and I learned when I took one to work and set it down in a manager’s office: they poop right after waking up. Yeah, that went over really well.

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