My mama tells a story of going to visit a friend’s parents out in the country when she was younger. The family sat down to dinner and Mama was mortified to be offered a platter of roasted possum. (She swears it was green, but I think maybe the stress of the moment affected her memory.)
Growing up, we saw the toothy rat-like creatures from time to time, and I always thought that the South was prime possum country…but I was wrong. I now know that the dead center of the possum universe is smack dab in the middle of the south side of Portland Oregon…in my yard, to be precise.
When hubby #2 and I bought the house I live in now, we were a bit dismayed to find a dead possum in a small green shed in the back yard. We dubbed it ‘The Possum House’, and laughed about it. Not too long after that, our dog cornered a baby possum in the yard one night…the nasty critter was hissing for all it was worth when I pulled my goofy Australian Shepherd out of range of snapping mini razor teeth. ‘What a coincidence,” we thought…foolishly shrugging our shoulders.
It was a few months later before we learned the truth…the ugly, evil, lurking possumy truth. It makes my skin crawl, even now.
#2 was between jobs (per the usual), and on a whim he decided to remove the rotting plywood floor in the free-standing garage next to our 1923 cottage. He was making good progress and had about half of the dirt floor uncovered when he pulled up a hunk of extra damaged plywood to reveal a huge sleepy possum…surrounded by hundreds of POSSUM BONES! The creature had apparently crawled there to die, but it still managed to snarl at #2 and refused to leave until poked repeatedly with a shovel!
I was at work (thankfully). When my phone rang, I answered to hear #2 screaming, “Bones… TTTTTammmy….bones!!!” Naturally, I was a little concerned and as I tried to calm him down I got a text message from him with a picture attached. It was of a bloated, sleepy looking possum gazing up at the camera with bared teeth. #2 actually took the time to grab his phone to get proof of the unfolding scene of doom!
It turns out that our garage was the marsupial equivalent of the elephant graveyard of old legends. The idea seems ridiculous, but it turns out that in the 1950’s there was a huge junk yard not too far from my street. When it was demolished, the ‘inhabitants’ had to move somewhere…and I guess they had to die somewhere as well.
When I tell people about this story I do a pretty good job of channeling Craig T. Nelson’s epic, “You moved the cemetery, but you left the bodies, didn’t you?” scene from Poltergeist. You can almost see the bobbing of little possum skulls in a muddy swimming pool. Now, #2 looked nothing like Craig, and there was no water…but other than that I’m pretty sure it was exactly like the movie.
Since that time, I’ve probably seen at least 20 live possums in my neighborhood…it’s pretty much Possum Central around here. I came home from a vacation once to find a huge dead possum in the middle of my driveway (I guess he was too sick to even make it to the sacred burial ground…behind the lawn mower). I’ve found two more large dead ones in or near my yard, and they looked as though they were just walking along and *BOOM* they’ keeled over. Oh, and don’t go thinking that they’re tricking me and ‘playing possum’. I’ve learned that when you can flip ’em with a shovel in one stiff movement, well…they’re not playing anymore.