Thursday, July 16, 2009

Possum Tales

This is just too good not to tell. Name omitted to protect the innocent.

He had to get up at 3:00 am Monday morning. Now that is not a friendly time of day to rise and shine, and he was afraid he might oversleep. As it turned out, he didn't need to worry.

At 2:44 am, he heard a commotion on his back porch, right outside his bedroom window. He knew right away what it was--a possum in the bag of dog food he left on the porch. He'd meant to move it after a possum had gotten in it a few nights before, but like I said, it had been a tough weekend. He'd taken a shot at that possum and winged it. Had it come back for more?

He grabbed his .22 and crept to the door. The possum must have heard the door creak because it scrambled out of the bag so fast he thought it was going to run inside the house, so he slammed the door fast. Through the window he saw the possum waddling off. He walked out onto the porch and took aim.

But...were there two possums? Apparently so. He could see the rotund behind of the one that had been in the dog food bag waddling off into the night. The other one, however, was just standing still and staring at him. He could see its eyes gleaming in the dark, that peculiar orange glow so familiar in headlights. He decided that the one looking at him was a) more likely to take the offensive and attack, and b) an easier target than the quickly vanishing hiney of the other possum.

So he took careful aim and hit it right between the eyes. When he walked over to inspect, he found that his aim had been perfect--he had perfectly shot the kids' kickball.

(Did you know that the reason animal's eyes shine in the dark is something called the Tapetum lucidum, more commonly called eyeshine? I just learned that myself as I researched to be sure I had the right color for the possum's eyes.)

Another thing about possums: you should always take one on a hiking trip with you. If he can catch one out and about at night, just shine a light on him and he'll play possum. You can pick him up and stuff him into a backpack and he'll travel comfortably all day.

Why would you want to take a possum hiking? Well, if you get lost, all you have to do is take the backpack off your back, open it, and wait. Sooner or later the possum will come ambling out and will make a beeline for the nearest road.


Then there is the story of the best coon and possum dog anyone ever heard of. It was a hound that just had to be shown a skinning board, and that dog bring in a possum or raccoon with a hide exactly the right size to fit the board. But one day the dog didn't come home. After three days its owner went looking for his favorite dog. He found him way back up on a ridge looking just worn out and pitiful. He had to carry the dog home, that's how bad he was. But when he got to the house, he found out the cause of the trouble. Seems his wife had been doing laundry and had left the ironing board leaning against the house. The dog was looking for a coon or possum big enough to fit the ironing board. Poor thing. We grow 'em big in West Virginia, but not that big.

picture by Bob Gress

Other possum stories you might like:

A Brer Possum tale about how he gets in trouble with a snake, told by one of America's finest storytellers, Jackie Torrence. She is gone but her stories and legend live on.

Brer Possum gets in trouble again, this time with Brer Rabbit, in Mr. Rabbit Nibbles Up the Butter.

Why the Possum's Tale is Bare was one of the first stories I learned as a storyteller, and it's still fun to tell.

De New Han' An old tale collected in the South in 1871 is told in dialect.

Ever wondered Why the Possum Has a Pouch? Find out in this story. Or Why Possum Has a Large Mouth? Click and learn!

Lots of possum lore in this article that someone has kindly scanned into the computer and shared with all of us. Don't you love people like that?

Urban possums? Not an urban legend, apparently.

If you prefer your possum on the dinner table, you can find out how to cook it at .
(I kid you not.) And you can read about one family's possum meal at Truth and Progress. A true story and they lived to tell the tale.
I think I'm about possumed out. Got any possum tales of your own to share?


Susan at Stony River said...

Great possum stories! I laughed out loud at the kickball. And please tell me the camping possum finding the road is a joke, right...?

Laura said...

Too funny!
No tales, but I did hear a story about a kid "borrowing" a penguin from SeaWorld and taking it back to his hotel in a backpack.

Granny Sue said...

Yes, it is a joke, Susan. Although i bet it's also true. When I sing the possum song with children, I usually ask them if they know what a possum is, and say "you know it's that round furry flat thing in the middle of the road." They all know what I'm talking about.

Granny Sue said...

borrowed a penguin? I wonder how the penguin liked the road trip! That is funny; only a kid would think of doing something like that.

Matthew Burns said...

I remember one time when I was a kid my grandmaw cooked Sunday dinner for us. She had a huge baking pan full of meat, and it looked and smelled good. We all took to eating like bear hounds, and my Dad asked what this was that he was eating. My grandmaw said, "Just go ahead and eat it if you like it, I'll tell you later what I did to it." Well, Dad thought this was an unusual response but it was soooo good that he just kept eating it as we all did.

After dessert, Dad again asked if Mom could get that recipe, and inquired again what it was we had eaten. My Grandmaw said, "I don't want to tell you because you won't like it then." Dad, being a country boy, figured he'd ate just about everything growing up, told her he doubted that it'd bother him, that there was very few things that he wouldn't eat. So, grandmaw up and told him that it was baked possum cook with apples. I remember Dad got the strangest look on his face, and he practically turned green, and ran outside and threw up. After a few minutes, he came back in and was a little angry that his mother-in-law had fed his family possum, and grandmaw said, "I told you you wouldn't like it after you found out what it was, but you liked it didn't you?" Dad said, "Yes, it was good but I've seen too many possums crawling out of dead carcasses to ever be able to eat one of them."

After a while, we got a good laugh out of it, especially since I kept eating the possum even after all of the ruckus! I never was a picky eater, and that's probably why I was more than a little portly.

I often wondered why Dad's family never ate possum. Lord knows they ate just about everything else, like coon, groundhog, baked robin, deer, bear, squirrel, etc., you know pretty much anything that moved. But they drew the line at possum!

Granny Sue said...

Matthew, I was pretty sure you'd have a possum tale for us!

I think a lot of people will balk at eating possum. I'm pretty sure I would too. they just look--untasty. But then people eat a lot of odd-looking things and like them very well, like octopus or turtle. Go figure.

I think Larry remembers eating it--or maybe that was groundhog. I can't imagine eating robins, though. Mighty little meat for a lot of work it would seem to me.

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