The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Opossum Hunting

By Addie J. Wood © 1992

Issue: March, 1992

I was surprised when Susan asked someone to send her opossum tales. I have wondered myself why hunting opossums wasn't any fun anymore. When I was young, around 1918 or 1920, that was a sport for the young boys. Most of them kept a hound dog and there were several opossums in the country to hunt. Sometimes a bunch of girls got together and went with the boys. It was fun to hear dogs run the opossums.

Opossums climb trees to get away from dogs. Someone would climb a tree, shake the opossum out, and then they had a sack to put it in. If it was large enough, they took it home, killed it, skinned it and stretched the hide on a board. When it was dry, they would sell it. Some merchants would buy them. It they couldn't sell them, they had a company address and shipped them and would get a fair price each. People also caught raccoons and did them the same way.

I had a brother who loved to eat possum when it was cooked right. He put them in a case and fed them a week or two to get them fat, killed and dressed them, and Mother cooked them. She would parboil opossums until they were almost tender, then put them in a pan in the stove oven. She cut them across the back like the old cooks would a hog jowl, in one inch squares, put salt and pepper on them, and browned them. My brother could eat just about one at a meal.

Back before there were washing machines, most all farmers had a large iron pot near a branch at their home where they would heat water to wash their clothes in. They would have two wash tubs and a wash board to rub them on. They wet the white in cold water, then put it in the iron pot with lye soap (homemade) to boil the clothes. Then the dirt would rub out easy. Then they rinsed them in clear water and hung them on a clothesline. Dark clothes were just rubbed on a board with lots of soap and rinsed and hung out. Wash day was a hard day in those days.

We had a wash place with an iron pot near a branch and one day Mother was walking around in the yard when she was 84 years old. She wasn't in good health at this time for her. She came back to the door and was nearly give out, so much so that she could not get in the house. I helped her in to sit down in a chair and asked her why she stayed out so long to get so tired.

She laughed and said, "I went out to look at the wash pot and a opossum came by, so I picked up a stick of wood and beat it to death." I could not believe it so I went to see. Sure enough, he was dead. I had a brother-in-law who came in about that time. He told it everywhere he went, about an 84 year old woman beating a possum to death.

There are some opossums still in the country, but the hunting and country games played by youth those days are not exciting enough entertainment for youth of these days.