Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Doctor Asked if We Have a Possum in the House?

Thus was the reason for Darlene's sudden breathing problems, CONVENIENTLY the day after I rescued this baby female Virginia Opossum from the skimmer basket in our swimming pool. I found her frantically treading water after noticing an unusual wake in the pool early one recent morning. I saw right through Darlene's plan. I knew the Doctor. He was good, but not that good.

Many have asked, "Why keep a opossum"? I guess it goes back to my childhood. I raised many types of small mammals as a boy but one of my most vivid chilhood memories involves a pet opossum and an old country gentleman I met while traveling to the family farm in Checotah Oklahoma.

I acquired that particular opossum from a classmate in Elementary School. His father found it clinging to it's dead mother and since everyone knew I had a menagerie at home, I got the call. I remember having to actually barter for this opossum though, and after offering several aquatic turtles from my collection, the deal was made.

"Baby" as I named him, became one of my favorite pets. My mom helped give him milk with an eye dropper and he fast became part of the family. He was even able to stay in the house, for the most part. I can still remember my dad finding him asleep in his boot while getting dressed for work one morning.

So when we made the trip to Checotah that one long weekend, Baby went right along. Today the trip from Fort Worth to Checotah takes about 5 hours but back then, it seemed to take all day. I rode the entire way in the back of dad's 1960 Ford pickup with Baby in an old wire bird cage. After crossing the Red River, we stopped at an old country gas station. An older gentleman working there saw Baby in the back of the truck and, I remember this like it was yesterday, offered to trade a mynah bird he kept in the station for my opossum! I politely refused his offer. I've thought about that old man many times over the years and I can still see his face. For the longest time, I wondered why he would want to trade a somewhat expensive, talking bird for a common opossum. Now, after owning parrots for many years, I CLEARLY KNOW WHY! Opossums are much, much quieter!

I don't remember every detail of that weekend. I remember the drive up and the drive back. I remember finding another opossum with my cousin Terry down in the creek. It was a large female with a pouch full of babies. We took her back to his house and put her in his guinea pig cage. I remember throwing the soiled cloth in the bottom of Baby's cage and hitting (and it sticking to) Terry's face. It's funny what you remember from your childhood.

I took a baby, orange-ish colored guinea pig, born there on the farm, home in the wire cage with Baby. They made the trip together fine. Afterwards, they actually lived together, for a time, in a large outdoor cage my dad built for them.

I still remember the day I let Baby go. He stayed around our small farm for several days. I'd find him in the barn, in the garage or under the house. One day I couldn't find him and I never saw him again. I remember how sad I felt that he left me. Over time, I felt sure he wandered off into the neighboring woods and found a suitable mate to start his own family.

I've owned and raised many animals over the years, everything from foxes to bobcats but that one opossum has always had a special place in my heart. You just don't forget a pet like that. So now, many years later, I've told Darlene to tell her Doctor "Yes, there IS a possum in the house"!


darlene said...

Awwwww.... This is so cute that it brought a tear or two to my eyes! [cough, wheeze, cough] So, you saw through my efforts to pull the wool over your eyes? ;-) I had to try!

Thanks for writing another entertaining and touching post. =)


Beth&Leo said...

Leo and I enjoyed.

Poor Darlene, having to produce all cough, wheeze and sneezing.

Nicely written.

Karen F. will love.


darlene said...

I am glad to see that others can feel my pain ;-)