By: Marlene Ratledge Buchanen | Gwinnett Citizen
By: Marlene Ratledge Buchanen | Gwinnett Citizen
Marlene Ratledge Buchanen

They are not bad critters, especially with sawmill gravy. (Steve Butler)

Recently Jim O’Neal, retired Brookwood High School teacher, mentioned on Face Book a raccoon had attacked one of his dogs.  The raccoon tested positive for rabies.

Even with up-to-date rabies shots, the dog will still receive some treatment and must be observed regularly.  This led to something that my son had told me about possums or Opossums if you aren’t from around here.  

The body temperature of a possum is too low for it to become infected with the rabies virus.  As a matter of fact, a possum carries few diseases for this reason and is one of the healthiest wild animals we have.  That doesn’t mean you want to go out and engage one in play. 

This FaceBook conversation led to much discussion of the cuteness vs. ugliness factor of possums.  (Possum, I am from around here.) Some say that possums are so ugly they are cute.  Daddy said opossum should be OH! Possum for OH! That is an ugly varmint, possum. Others say not even the Mama Possum cannot stand to look at her babies in the face.  That’s why she carries the babies on her back. 

Robert O’Neal thinks they look like George Jones. And Joe Beck’s grandmother says they are better ratters for the barn than any cat. They eat insects and worms and some other things that we don’t want to know about. 

I am on the cute side. Granted when they show their teeth some of their appeal diminishes, but basically I think they are cute. Opossum Orthodontics hasn’t really caught on.  Melinda Henley Wharton said she thought they were cute until one hissed at her.  Y’all do know that hissing is just their way of saying “Hey there.”

Several people suggested possum recipes from Granny Clampett. Apparently roasted with veggies is preferred to boiling in a stew.  Just in case any of you really want to know.

My sister-in-law, Bobbie Susan Williams, can’t stand anything rodent like.  She is on the far ugly end of the cuteness scale.  Jan Snell Houston is in total agreement. John Hancock of Snellville fame told me a story about possums.  I will not repeat it. It has totally grossed me out.  The ugliness side has more votes.

Possums are marsupials like kangaroos.  The young are born and make their way through Mama’s fur to the pouch where the nipples are.  They live there until they are a pretty good size and then they crawl out to ride on Mama’s back. Many of the possums who are killed are carrying babies in the pouches. 

I have heard of people saving the babies when the mother has been killed.   A number of people commented about rescuing the babies.  Apparently, they made good pets when raised from an early age. Bonny Ragsdale Rosser has a good friend who is known as a possum whisperer. She is a lover and supporter of all things possum. She has rescued and raised two of them.  Once raised, I guess you have to keep them because they wouldn’t know how to live in the wild.  (Please tell me they are litter box trained.) Michael Gary Barker says he feeds his “barn cats and barn possums” cat food.  

Lewis Corley asked the question: Do you know what a possum is?  The answer is “a flat animal that sleeps in the middle of the road.”  
A possum is slow and would prefer to curl up and play dead to fighting.  I wish more people were like that.  If forced into a battle, a possum has some pretty wicked teeth and claws.  It can really injure another animal.

Mama and Daddy had a pet door that was closed every night so the dog and cats couldn’t go out after bedtime.  One night the dog woke up everyone in the neighborhood.  A possum that lived in the back woods came up at night to eat persimmons.  This night the pet door was open and it came right on in.  It was eating the pet food when Mama and Daddy found it.  The critter dropped to the floor and played dead, even with the dog after it.  The possum was brighter than the dog, which isn’t saying much for either one of them.   You would have sworn it was dead.  No signs of breathing. Daddy put on welding gloves and picked it up, relocating it to the base of the persimmon tree.  It lay there until Daddy was back in the house.  It got up and started eating persimmons.  No hissing, fighting, anything, just docile. Mama said the possum gave the dog a “nanny-nanny-pooh-pooh” look.

It really doesn’t matter if you think they are cute or not.  We are in the land of possums and here we will stay.  I will share my son’s favorite joke with you.  Do you know why the chicken crossed the road? To show the possum that it could be done!!