The saga of Sprout and Snout. September 27, 2008Posted by ourfriendben in critters, homesteading, pets.
Tags: 'possums, opossums
No, our friend Ben is not alluding to last night’s presidential debate. However, this post does have something to do with last night: the appearance at our outdoor cats’ food bowl after dark of two youthful opossums, christened Sprout and Snout after their predecessors of a couple of years ago.
I should mention that our small, venerable round oak dining table—a stunning silver color from having been consigned to the patio for years by our friend Ben’s parents, who considered Colonial-era furniture to be antique and spurned Arts and Crafts items like the table as latter-day trash, but I digress—sits under a chandelier, also Arts and Crafts vintage, in front of the sliding glass door to our deck. (The previous owners of what would become Hawk’s Haven also had a small, round oak table under the chandelier, a flea-market find. Clearly we had found our future home!) Our friend Ben would like to go off on a rant about how perfect a small round table is for two people, and how impossible it is for more than two, but I think I’m already off-topic enough.
Point being, when Silence Dogood and I sit down for a meal, we have a wonderful view out onto the plant-laden deck, illuminated with chile lights along the deck railing and, often, with a fire blazing in the firepit farther back in the yard. While the light remains, we see a panoramic view of our backyard and, when the neighboring farmers’ corn is not too tall, of the beautiful ring of mountains that encircles our valley home. We see the delightful little stream, Hawk Run, that burbles under the bridge that connects our deck to our backyard. And we see our five outdoor cats (plus two regular visitors) disporting themselves on the deck, sleeping, or staring back at us with that “stop-eating-and-get-out-here” look.
So last night, as our friend Ben was enjoying another of Silence’s superb repasts, I glanced out the deck door and saw, gleaming disturbingly in the darkness… a long, pink, hairless rat tail. Yuck! Fortunately, I know from long experience that rat tails are not pink. It had to be a ‘possum. Heading over to the sliding door, I saw a very small ‘possum enthusiastically enjoying the cats’ food.
Then I saw that our black cat, Aloysius, was lying on the doormat facing the ‘possum and watching it with his eyes starting out of his head. What the—?!! I flipped on the deck light, which has never in my experience phased any ‘possum. And then I saw… a second small ‘possum. Like its sibling, it was enjoying the cats’ food, but had positioned itself at the far end of the bowl. Snout and Sprout, redux. No wonder Wishus was dumbfounded.
This reminds our friend Ben of a question I’d like to ask any and all of you, if you have any acquaintance with ‘possums yourselves. Growing up, our friend Ben was constantly hearing the phrase “playing ‘possum,” i.e., rolling over and pretending to be dead until danger had passed. Well, our friend Ben has now seen plenty of ‘possums, and except for those flattened on the highway, which could hardly be said to be playing, I have never seen the slightest vestige of this behavior.
The ‘possums around here are quite bold. Even when all five cats are present on the deck, they maintain a repectful distance from the long-snouted, sharp-toothed marsupials, whose toothy mouths look more like an alligator’s than anything else our friend Ben can think of. Brrrrr! Adult ‘possums are big, too—way heftier than a football. Those cats aren’t stupid. Abandoning their typical mighty hunter stance, they’re the ones who are likely to “play dead” when a ‘possum appears on the scene.
Oh, yes, the question: Have you ever seen a ‘possum “play dead”? If so, our friend Ben would like to hear about it. Meanwhile, Silence and I will see if Snout and Sprout remain with us for the winter, becoming larger and larger as the months go by. I guess we could take the cats’ dish in once it gets dark to discourage them. But it wouldn’t feel right, eating our supper every night while five pathetic, hungry feline faces stare in at us like the orphans in Oliver Twist. ”Please, sir, could I have some more?!” Oh, all right.