Saturday, October 06, 2012

Encounter with a 'possum

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 Knox County, Tennessee. 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.

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.


backporch view said...

David, I also had a close encounter with a possum, I was able to escape with the seat of my jeans, I considered it a draw. Got up early one morning to go squirrel hunting on Sharp's Ridge, not far from the house. Found a good spot near a bunch of big oak trees and settled down on a log that was sitting a little bit off the ground. It was still to dark to see much but I could hear them squirrells talking and running around above me. My Stevens 16 gauge single shot (bought it over at that Western Auto in Happy Holler across from Cas's store) was loaded with #4 shot. To further hide myself I decided to slowly slide off the log down to the ground, about an 18" drop. Encounter!!! An old mother possum was laying right underneath me, sound asleep I guess...I hit her and she came unglued...the kids too..a hissing and showing them little white pointed teeth. Scared me so bad I fired off a round, went above them..thank goodness (I say that now, but not then, if I'd had an automatic they would have been in "possum heaven). Anyway, the squirrels were in Anderson County by then and I was a little rattled, so I called it a day. End of story....but to this day I can still see all them little pointed teeth snake like hissing sound.

Deborah Adams said...

I once went out on the back porch to pet the cats (we had five of them at the time) While petting one, I reached out to pet another one that I initially saw only in peripheral vision. Luckily I turned my head just in time to see that it was actually a possum enjoying a meal of Meow Mix. Like squirrels, possums cannot be beaten, so I just think of them as free-range livestock. (Yes, I'm a vegetarian but after the Zombie Apocalypse, I probably won't be so picky about what I eat.)