By Ken Bradbury
He’s about two foot long, butt-ugly and he moves faster than I do. I know this because I’ve taken after him twice with a garden rake and he’s out-run me both times. For years I thought he was a cat … not because I’m losing my eyesight, but when I’d hear him walk back and forth on the ductwork in my basement on cold winter nights I’d assumed it was the neighbor’s feline. Then one night I returned home late and spotted His Supreme Ugliness crawling out from my storage shed. He was a possum. I don’t know how to determine the sex of Didelphimorphia (I looked that up), but since I was intent on killing him, I called him a guy. It seemed manlier.
Most people use Facebook to tell the world about their new nephews, their Christmas gatherings and their recent surgical scars, but I turned to Mark Zukerberg’s Internet invention to find out how to get rid of a possum. Just one casual inquiry brought me 57 responses and 60 “likes.” Why would you “like” a question about possums? Unfortunately I posted my question on the day before the Arenzville Burgoo, so every joker online sent me suggestions for putting the mangy little creature into the town’s soup. The responses ranged from “You need peanut butter and a gun,” to “Chase him while carrying a solid basket. When you get near the possum, slam the basket over him then sit on the basket until someone comes along and asks you what you’re doing. When the stop and ask them what to do with a possum.” Big help. And I should have known that such a posting would also raise the hackles of the animal rights folks who told me to trap the creature live then take him to the woods. One fellow from Rushville said that he traps them in his backyard then takes them across the river to Beardstown. The rest of his family lives in Beardstown.
Finally one of my former Triopia students messaged me to say he had a live trap and would bring it down, bait it and set it. Sweet! The next day I found the gray contraption properly placed behind my house and I anxiously awaited the sound of a live trap snapping shut … which it did later that night. I wasn’t dressed, so I waited until the next morning to go outside and let a very angry cat out the trap. He didn’t say anything when he left but he was in no mood to attend the Burgoo. Bottom line: my student trapper came to get his contraption and the possum was somewhere smiling at both of us.
I apologize to the animal lovers of the world, but I’m a former farm boy and a possum is a pest. If you don’t get rid of him then, he’s going to tear something up so a .22 rifle is the best cure, but it’s awkward driving to play rehearsal each night with a gun in my car in hopes of sighting the critter when I pull in the drive at night. It makes the actors nervous when the director is into conceal and carry. On the other hand, maybe that … oh, never mind.
It’s not the first time I’ve run afoul of friends who don’t like the taking of animals lives. In fact, some have told me this while eating a hamburger. They don’t understand that if a person is raised on a farm then he has a certain mentality toward everything four-legged and furry. The average lifespan of a hog is eight years. If you let your porker grow to that old age, you’ll have poured a snoot full of money down his belly and you’ll end up with very aged bacon. A cow can be expected to live for fifteen years with similar results. A possum can only be expected to live and breathe for one to two years, so at whatever point you shoot him he won’t have had many Christmases left in him. Besides, somewhere in this equation I’ve got to figure in my own lifespan. I need my sleep and when your winter nights are disturbed by the plink-plink-plink of possum feet walking back and forth on your furnace pipes then a very human factor comes into play. The furnace will kick on and he’ll move away from the heat … plink-plink-plink … it shuts off and he moves back toward the warmth … plink-plink-plink. This is why before the snow falls I want to replace my plink-plink-plink with a little bang-bang-bang.
So before any reader raises his holistic hackles at my murderous ways, I want to report that my possum is still alive. I’ve named him Dick after a guy who lived across from the hall from me at Illinois College. Dick seldom went to class and never did find the showers located on the second floor of Gardner Hall dormitory. Dick the possum will probably have run of my basement this winter and there’s not a thing I can do about it except make up a tune to go with plink-plink-plink.