Two Stories About Opossums. Yes, Really.

5 years ago

I am a total city girl. I grew up in a suburb of Detroit. You don't get much more "city" than that.

In the early years of our relationship, my husband called me "City Mouse." He, of course, was my "Country Mouse" counterpart, having grown up in a fairly rural town in Iowa.

I went camping frequently as a kid, learned to shoot a bow and a gun, and ate venison rather than beef through most of my childhood, so I have a tiny bit of "country" in me. But for the most part, I'm not terribly wise to the ways of the world as far as gardening, farming, and animal habits go.

All this about my lack of country sophistication is to lead up to a story about an opossum. As an aside, and to further illustrate my point, I have been calling these animals "possums" my whole life and initially started typing this post with that in the title, until I decided to double check my accuracy and learned that possums are a different species of marsupials from Australia.

Good to know. Back to my story.

Shortly before my husband and I got married, some thugs in our neighborhood shot at our house. This shooting occurred on a Tuesday night, and I remember hearing the shots, but didn't realize what it was. I surely didn't realize that bullets had been shot at my home.

The following weekend my hubby had to work out of town. While I was home alone, I decided to do some cleaning. As I was dusting my dining room, I happened to notice what looked like a small hole, high in the front wall of our house. The wheels started turning in my head, and I looked across to the opposite wall of the dining room. I saw a chip in the paint, where whatever had come through the front wall had continued with enough velocity to cross the room and chip the paint on the other wall. My city-girl brain started making connections and I dropped to the floor, where I quickly found a .22 slug. I then remembered seeing a puzzling hole in the door of the closet in our master bathroom a few days before. I raced up the stairs, pulled aside a small shelf holding towels, and saw another hole in the front wall of our master bathroom.

Two bullets had shot through the front of our house. Holy crap.

Needless to say, I kind of freaked out. I was extremely nervous about spending the rest of the weekend home alone. Though my rational brain realized that the shots had been fired several days before and nothing else had happened since, I was still on high alert. By the time it was dark outside, I had become pretty paranoid.

Then my dogs wanted to go outside. I let them out in the backyard, almost immediately calling them to come back in. I was so jittery I didn't want them out of the house.

Then they started acting strange, like they had found something super awesome and were not planning to come back in the house any time soon. I thought it must be a dead animal of some sort, and I knew that if I didn't go out and physically drag my dogs away from said animal carcass, they would never come back inside, and would (of course) end up being shot if I left them outside for one more minute.

So, though I was terrified of being shot myself, I marched outside with a garbage bag in hand to dispose of whatever animal parts I might find. To my dismay, I found an opossum who looked only mostly dead. I was horrified that my dog (who had never, ever come even close to catching and killing another animal, BTW) had attacked this thing and nearly killed it on the very day that I was afraid to be in my yard because I just knew someone was waiting to shoot at me again any minute.

In my near-panicked state, I decided that I must get rid of the opossum, who was surely in its death throes and wouldn't make it much longer anyway after the deadly attack by my oh-so-wimpy dog. So I quickly pulled my dog off the suffering marsupial, scooped it up in the garbage bag, and proceeded to whack the bag onto the ground several times so that the dying animal would just go ahead and die and not suffer needlessly any longer (pause and just picture that for a second). I then threw the bag into the garbage, hustled my dogs into our bullet-ridden house, and proceeded to call my Dad.

Me: "Dad! There was this possum, and Jonah attacked it, and it was mostly dead, so I put it in a trash bag and whacked it on the ground a bunch of times. Do-you-think-it's-dead-because-I-don't-want-to-leave-it-to-suffocate-in-a-plastic-bag-if-it's-not-dead??"

Dad: "Um, do you think maybe it was playing possum?"

Me: "Oh crap."

So I risked my life again to go back outside and dump over my trash bin (it was empty other than the bag with the living animal in it) so the opossum could get out. I probably should have pulled the bag out and untwisted it, but once I realized that I was probably dealing with a fully-alive-and-not-at-all-mostly-dead-opossum, I wasn't going anywhere near that thing.

In the morning I peeked my head outside and saw that, in fact, the trash bag was empty and the opossum had run off, hopefully only slightly dazed from his nightmare experience with the crazy lady in the gun-shot house.

I haven't had any experiences with opossums since that day, until yesterday.

Yesterday, while reading a book with Miss, she looked up and saw an opossum through our window. He was right up on our deck eating some bread I had thrown outside hoping to lure some squirrels up on the deck so the girls could watch them.

An opossum was much more cool. AND, this wasn't just any opossum. This was an opossum with just a stump for a tail and only three legs.

When Miss asked me why he was missing one of his legs, my City Mouse-ness reared its head again and I said, "I'm not sure, maybe it got into a fight with another animal." Later, my husband pointed out that it had probably been caught in a trap and chewed its own leg off. Right. Because we don't really have any savage and enormous carnivores roaming our little neighborhood that would be capable of cleanly chomping off an opossum leg in one bite, while simultaneously leaving the rest of the little guy to wander around alive on his three remaining legs. Duh. And ew.

Poor little thing was so hungry (and blind) that it came right up to our back door looking for more bread.

Miss thought it was very cool, having never seen an opossum before. She wanted to open the door. I, however, wasn't really up for another up close and personal encounter with an opossum. I might never be ready for that.

Seeing this little guy naturally reminded me of my previous ignorance in dealing with that opossum almost five years ago. I got a good laugh out of remembering my opossum story.

Now Miss has an opossum story of her own. She watched him until he hobbled away and asked if we could put out more bread so he would come back. We did, and today she scared away a squirrel who was trying to eat it, "To save it for the opossum."

Last night I asked her, as I do every night, what her favorite part of the day was. She said, "Watching the opossum."

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