By Jase Graves
According to my extensive research (approximately five minutes on Google when I should have been folding underwear), the Chinese zodiac system assigns an animal symbol to each year. It is believed that people born in a given year have the personality of that year’s animal. For example, based on the placemats at my favorite Chinese buffet, I was born in the Year of the Dog, which means I am loyal, honest and difficult to housebreak.
Although it has absolutely nothing to do with the Chinese zodiac system, I am hereby declaring this year to be the Year of the Possum! The common possum (also known as the “opossum,” “roadkill” or “hissing rat-kitty”) is actually a marsupial, meaning that when possums feel threatened, they hiss with a strong Australian accent. They vaguely resemble a small house cat who spent a drunken night on the town with a set of malfunctioning Norelco clippers.
“So why this sudden interest in possums?” you probably aren’t asking. Within the past two months, I’ve had two encounters with these repulsive, yet somehow endearing creatures.
The first occurred one evening last month while my wife and I were taking our evening geriatric power stroll. As we walked past our house, we noticed an unidentified hairy object on our front lawn. At first, we thought it might be a bunny, a kitten or even one of our family doglets who had escaped to the front yard to kill the rest of our grass.
Upon closer inspection (I made my wife go look), we discovered that it was a young possum – probably a teenager based on all of the sighing and eye rolling. Because East Texas was experiencing record heat and a drought at the time (and because I feel a kindred connection to all creatures with bad hair) I decided to prepare the possum a small dish of water and a handful of kibble dog food.
When I returned with the food and water, the possum gave me a half-hearted hiss and revealed in its clutches the carcass of a half-eaten rodent. In other words, I was like one of those restaurant servers who try to force a dessert on me after I’ve already stuffed myself. (I usually agree to the dessert.)
My next possum encounter happened a month later when my wife interrupted my slumber to inform me that there was a possum in our swimming pool/liquid cash vortex. When I asked her if she got it out, she said that she thought I should do it since she basically does everything else except breathe for me. (I’m still trying to figure out how to turn that over to her, too.)
When I went outside, the possum was sitting just inside one of the skimmer intake thingies–judging me because he didn’t like my bathrobe. There was no time to reconsider my leisurewear, though, as I sprang into action, using the pole end of my dip net to gouge the possum out of the skimmer and then skillfully twirling the pole to scoop him in the net and deposit him over the back fence – while cold possum water streamed down my arm and into my robe.
Although these experiences were not altogether pleasant, it’s nice to know that our neighborhood has a healthy ecosystem that supports the local wildlife – even if it has no taste in bathrobes.