2011-02-02 photo by Cody Pope
GRANDPA AND THE OPOSSUM
One summer, Grandma grew a beautiful garden. There were long rows of carrots showing their feathery tops and purple green beans were forming from little white flowers on their vines. Chives and mint plants were tucked into the corners and potatoes were in their hills. The squash vines began bearing their yellow summer squash and zucchini fruits.
The garden was fenced in by small electric wires. We had to remember to switch off the generator before we entered the garden, or we would get a small shock on our legs as we stepped across the fence. The electric fence was supposed to keep the wild animals from nibbling
But one day, Grandma found that half a row of beans had been eaten and there were bite marks on some baby zucchinis.
"It must be a woodchuck." She thought.
She considered what to do. Then she asked Grandpa to buy a live trap in town, after he finished work.
That night, Grandpa came home with a funny metal cage. IT was open at both ends and had a tilting tray in the middle. Grandpa explained that the middle tray was attached to a spring, which closed both doors with a snap.
"You put food that the animal likes on the tray." he told Grandma. "The animal enters to eat it, and when it touches the tray, the doors snap shut."
There was a guide with it. "Put nuts or peanut butter inside to attract squirrels and raccoons." it said. "Woodchucks and rabbits like fruit."
"We'll put in some canteloupe and early summer blueberries." said Grandma."The woodchuck will have a feast!" I said, thinking it was a shame to waste good blueberries on a woodchuck.
Grandpa set the trap and put it beside the garden fence. We checked the trap in the morning and evening but it was empty except for the fruit. Then, the next morning we saw that the trap doors were closed. There was an opossum inside, lying on its back with its feet up and its mouth open.
"Poor thing." said Grandma. "It's dead."
Grandpa poked it gently with a stick to make sure. There were flies circling the trap. The opossum didn't move. It had surely died.
"Its part of the circle of life, pumpkin." said Grandpa. "We all have a time to be born and a time to die."
Grandpa felt sad. As he got ready for work, I could see he was in a dark mood. Little storm clouds hovered above his head as he ate his breakfast and gathered his books for class.
"Just dump out the opossum in the forrest at the top of the road, on your way to work today." said Grandma. "Then we won't need to bury it around here."
Grandma and I watched Grandpa roar off in the car, with the dead opossum in its trap at the back.
"Poor opossum." said Grandma again.
Five minutes later, we heard Grandpa's car drive back into the drive way. We came out to see why he was back so fast. Had he forgotten something?
"Here's your trap." said Grandpa with a smile. "That poor dead opossum of yours scrambled out of the trap faster than anything, when I opened the trap doors to shake it out."
"What?" said Grandma. "It was really alive? But there were flies circling it!"
We were all happy that our live trap hadn't really killed the opossum. And that's how I learned that opossums really do play dead. They are truly incredible animal actors!