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The sun’s shining so let’s chase opossums

And you thought “Punxsutawney Phil” was the only furry critter getting any action in that central Pennsylvania town.
A recent report that involves a long-dead opossum and an intoxicated man has taken at least a smidge of the spotlight from Phil the Groundhog, whose annual claim-to-fame in February is the prognostication of six more weeks of winter or an early spring.
A 55-year-old man was charged March 25 with public drunkenness after he was noticed attempting to mouth-to-mouth resuscitate an opossum along a highway. This possum wasn’t playing possum. It had been deceased for hours going into days.
One can only suppose that when the man bent down to provide a breath of life into the tread-marked blob of roadkill, the man’s consumption of liquid courage outweighed the sewer-like aroma of the carcass.
We’ve all seen our fair share of opossums in our lifetimes. However, most of those, like the aforementioned, are of the petrified variety.
I, however, got to view one of the members of the opossum kingdom right near downtown Sylvania in a time of day unaccustomed to seeing such an animal.
He was just off Main Street at high noon.
This opossum weebled and wobbled. He teetered and tottered. He, to my amazement, even shimmied and shammied, if that is possible for a pink-nosed, over-grown wannabe rat.
The Big “O,” I can assure you, wouldn’t have been able to walk a straight line, as dictated by a law enforcement officer. He certainly would not have been able to recite any sequence of the alphabet to the satisfaction of an officer with a patrol car, equipped with flashing blue light nearby.
The rascal strolled past the Sylvania First United Methodist Church without even a thought of sliding into a pew for a worship service.
He then headed to the backyards of businesses and residences on the thoroughfare known as Singleton Avenue. Of course, the first property said opossum had to venture through was that of Thompson Strickland Waters Funeral Home. Let’s see … a marsupial (translation: pouched varmint) who routinely plays dead to avoid altercations with packs of highly trained ninjas and overly crazed Christmas shoppers battling for the “got-to-have” top toy on Black Friday bypasses a funeral home.
Strange to think that of an animal known for his ability to act dead and who might as well be born dead thanks to Goodyear, Michelin and Firestone. Poor guy normally doesn’t even have the chance to show off a few of his nuances he learned watching Spike TV’s “1000 Ways to Die.”
As the opossum kept going, I kept following with my camera. The animal would eventually sink his claws into the trunk of a tree and head north to branch. The possum then parked himself, figuring I didn’t have a white-wall tire with his name on it waiting.
Although it isn’t a lead-pipe lock that opossums will make a public appearance only when the sun goes down, it is extremely unusual for them to show themselves in the daylight. So to see “Fred the Possum,” who I acknowledge by his nickname “Bubba,” out and about earlier in the day than expected got me wondering. There was the outside possibility that Bubba was rabid, but not this Bubba.
Possums are more resistant to rabies than any other mammal and Bubba was rather personible, as far as opossums go that is.
After I treed Bubba, like a good news hound dog, the opossum wasn’t over-the-top foaming at the mouth while yelling out “I’m going to bite you! Die newspaper scum die!” He instead just calmly watched me as I moved around at ground level. He would twitch his ear occasionally while clamped onto that tree limb.
He just had to flick a flea off I’m sure.
Bubba probably was confused and if he wasn’t confused already, having a tie-wearing guy following at a reasonable distance with a black hand-held device that in opossum terminology could be referred to as a bazooka assuredly would push him over the edge.
I have formed a theory on Bubba being outside with pristine blue skies and sparse clouds instead of darkness with sparse stars. Even though Bubba wasn’t talking, I believe he was on the town the night before tossing some back and he never got home to Mrs. Bubba.
A night drinking with the boys won’t win you any brownie points with the wife. It, however, will get you kicked to the Main Street curb.
As Bubba sobered up in the mid-day sun, another revelation hit me that maybe the Screven County Livestock Festival could be expanded from swine, goats, lambs and cattle for 2011 to include opossums. According to The National Opossum Society (a real group), people must be reminded that opossums are wild animals so don’t foolhardily grab one because the critters might bite.
I’ll betcha a domesticated one could be trained to be walked on a leash for judging purposes. This idea, in turn, could prolong the average life of opossums from two to three months.
When I returned to the tree later in the day, Bubba was gone. He must have packed a sack lunch after a diet of hangover aspirins and hightailed it out of there.
The guy probably had more church parking lots stroll through and he couldn’t miss out on scampering (at opossum speed) through the backyards of other Sylvania funeral homes.
I just hope Mrs. Bubba didn’t hit him like a Mack truck when he finally walked in the front door.

Enoch Autry is the publisher-editor of the Sylvania Telephone.