I once had a close encounter with a ‘possum, a big one, and lost. Yes, I know, the correct word is opossum and that it is the only marsupial in the
United States. I don’t know if the
‘possum I encountered was a male or a female because there was no time to check.
Encounter is probably not the best word to describe the situation, since it implies a chance meeting. This ‘possum was minding it’s own business when I provoked it, waddling across the graveled lot of a station where trash was dropped off, compacted then sent to the main dump.
When I saw the big ‘possum about three one morning, I was on patrol as a deputy sheriff in
The deed I was about to attempt was premeditated. After consultation with
another officer known to be an expert on ‘possums, who told me that a rap on
the back would cause the marsupial to “play dead,” assuming that just shining a
bright light on it did not cause a fake fainting spell. Knox
While the ‘possum pretending to be dead, I was told, it was an easy task to grab it by the tail and drop it into a burlap sack. I had a burlap bag and plans to put the ‘possum in a fellow officer’s cruiser while he was filling it up with gasoline at the service center. The ‘possum was to be payback for the same officer having stolen my cruiser from the service center and leaving it in a parking lot several blocks away with the lights flashing.
As turned onto the gravel parking lot that morning, the ‘possum turned to stare, and I hit him with the bright beam from my spotlight. It froze, stared in the direction of the light, but did not roll over and pretend to be dead. I got out of my cruiser, burlap bag in one hand and my police baton in the other. The ‘possum’s eyes were ruby red in the light as I approached.
Since I didn’t intend to actually hurt the critter, my only criminal intent being an intended kidnapping, I reached out and tapped it lightly on the back with the baton. The ‘possum did not roll over and play dead as expected. Instead, it exploded into action, grabbing my baton with its paws and began to chew on it fiercely.
Turning on my heel, I left the baton with the possum and sprinted a few feet away. I had seen the nasty-looking teeth, much bigger than I had thought they would be, but was certain that a creature that “played ‘possum” in order to survive would not pursue.
I was wrong. Leaving the police baton behind, the ‘possum rushed me. The parking lot was flat and the only high ground was my cruiser. I ran to the rear and climbed up on the trunk. Seconds later the ‘possum was standing on its back legs against the fender, hissing and attempting to get at me, so I climbed on the roof to wait it out.
Shooting the ‘possum never crossed my mind because I knew I was the bully and it was the injured party. Besides, a shot fired in an area with so many houses would have resulted in multiple calls to my headquarters, reporting a shot fired on my beat. I made myself as comfortable as possible, considering that it was cold and my coat was inside the cruiser.
My greatest fear was that a supervisor would come by and find me on top of my cruiser with a ‘possum holding me at bay. The baton and burlap sack on the ground would have told the supervisor all he needed to know and I would have become a police legend. Cops can be incredibly cruel when a brother or sister screws up.
Eventually, the angry marsupial got tired of waiting and shuffled off into the woods, making sniffing sounds as it went. Making certain it was gone, I climbed down and retrieved my baton. I dropped the burlap bag into a garbage can, my interest in catching a ‘possum forever doused in the ice water of reality.
It was one tough ‘possum and I saluted his courage as I left.