Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Possum on the Half Shell

So over the last two days, I've been reminded that this is the time of year in the south when both the possum, and their armored cousin, come out at night. Sadly, this is most notable in the number of those that just didn't make it when crossing the road.

But for the ones who do... well, they have all sorts of tales.

I saw my first possum when I was 5. My sister and I were living with my Aunt and Uncle while my mother was in training or stationed overseas for the ARMY and couldn't take us with her. I really couldn't tell you-- I was too young to remember that. But what I -do- remember is that my Uncle was a game warden, and we used to get to ride around with him when he was doing daylight patrols. One such day, he stopped the vehicle in the middle of the road, got out...and proceeded to climb ON TOP of the roof! We all filed out because THIS was an adventure! Turned out that there was a family of possum sleeping on a branch over the road. Momma, and at least three babies. And my Uncle didn't want any of them slipping and falling to the road, so he gently nudged them with a blunt stick until they moved along. I remember thinking they were absolutely adorable, fluffy brown critters that looked a lot like a really cool plush toy. But I wasn't allowed to have one. And once they moved on, well, so did we.

The next time I saw a possum, I was married with a baby of my own. It was the middle of winter, fast approaching the middle of the night-- and the possum was snow white, and this sucker HISSED! I was taking the house trash out to our street trash container-- which was just outside the door. Complete with the lid on top, all closed. So I took the lid off like I always did and was about to put the trash bag in there...when my trash can hissed at me. It was -huge-! For a brief second, I thought I might be looking at the mutant offspring of a feral cat and an enormous rat. But once my heart slowed down a little, and I actually looked at it, I realized it was just a possum in his winter coat out for a bite to eat. I set the trash bag down on the road, taking a step back as I laughed, then called to Mark to help me dump our unwanted visitor out. The possum didn't like it, but he went about his way pretty peacably.

I didn't see my first live armadillo until I was 16. Up to that point, if you'd asked me the native habitat of an armadillo, I'd have been inclined to tell you, "Upside down, stiff, on the side of the road." Now, the one I saw, I only saw the back end of... but that's really at the tail end of this story, so let me start from the beginning:

So I was 16, and it's the first time we lived in Alabama. And it was my turn to give my little sister a bath. While she and I were in the bathroom taking care of that, my parents were having an adventure of their own.

My mother had gone into the backyard to put something away, but she couldn't see what she was doing, so she called to my Dad to turn the back porch light on. As soon as he did-- my mother realized she was within touching distance of an armadillo! And that sucker CHARGED! So my mother turned around, yelled (Okay, she was -almost- screaming), and fled-- right past my father and into the carport to go around the house. Well, my Dad, figuring he could help, grabbed a shovel and followed right behind that armadillo. Now, that right there might have been the end of that armadillo...except that my father's belt failed and his pants began slipping off him.

This is the part where I finished dressing my sister, and headed to the front door to see what all the commotion was, as my mother was still yelling -- just in time to see my father, his pants around his ankles, a shovel over his head with both hands, yell to my mother, "Kathy, jump to the right and get out of the way!" Then I watched my mother jump to the right as a speeding armadillo fled past as fast as those little legs could go-- and my father threw the shovel after it-- WAY missing it. Then watching, as my parents laughd, as my dad retrieved his pants, my mother retrieved the shovel...and that armadillo just KEPT on running.

To this day, when I think about 'possum on the half shell', THIS is the first image in my mind.

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