The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Possum Intruder

By Priscilla M. Hall © 1992

Issue: March, 1992

Sunshine was flowing into my bedroom so strongly that I knew it was later than I usually got up to begin the day, but it was Sunday and I was taking advantage of that, waiting for my toddler to announce that he was ready to get up. I could hear little noises coming from his room across the hall, so I figured that at any minute Roddy would call for Mama to come to get him out of his crib.

We were on the top floor of a large old house in Radford, Virginia, just across the street from Radford College. The house was built on the slope so that the main floor was on a level with the street in front and the basement door opened from ground level at the back. Bill, my husband, and I had spent the day before doing the odds-and-ends chores of home ownership, yard mowing, and so forth. The weather was nice and we had put in a long day.

We had slept soundly and now it was time to eat breakfast and get ready for church, but what was Roddy doing? I could hear the sounds of his plastic bottle rattling. I had left it in his crib when I had tucked him in at bedtime. He would soon realize that it was empty and let me know that he was hungry, I thought to myself. The rattling sounds continued, however, getting more and more forceful, but there was still no little voice calling out or even murmuring. Now my curiosity overcame my reluctance to leave my bed and my sleeping husband. I wanted to see what my pride and joy was doing so intently with that bottle.

I quietly got up and slipped the few feet from my bed to the door of Roddy's room and peeked in. All was still and quiet. I eased into the room and looked over the side of the crib. Roddy was lying there, sleeping peacefully! I stood still, thinking. I knew I had not imagined the noise and I was sure it had been made by the plastic bottle, but if Roddy was still asleep, how had he made that much noise with his bottle? And where was the bottle? I couldn't see it. Cautiously, I felt around in the light blanket, but the bottle wasn't in the bed. Of course it often fell through the slats onto the floor, but I hadn't heard a bump, so I had assumed it was still in the bed. If not, it must be on the floor, but if on the floor, how had Roddy been making the rattling sounds only moments before? I was getting a weird feeling.

As I stood pondering over the situation, the noise began again. It was definitely there in the room and it still sounded like the plastic bottle being raked across the slats of the bed, but it couldn't be. I was standing by the bed and nothing was moving.

I moved slightly and the noise stopped. I stood very still. What was going on here? I eased away from the crib and looked all around the room. Everything seemed normal. I crouched down and looked for the bottle and the source of the noise.

The heating system included old-fashioned radiators and I could see something sticking out from beneath the one under the window - something six or eight inches long. A tail! A rat! There was a rat in my baby's bedroom!

At that moment the noise began again. The creature had the bottle under the radiator and was swinging it back and forth against the sections of the radiator, trying to get the last remnants of milk that it could undoubtedly smell, but not reach.

I was furious! The peace of Sunday morning ended abruptly. I dashed back across the hall and woke Bill. "There's a rat in Roddy's room. We're not staying in this house another night!"

Bill jumped out of bed and followed me back to the other room. The tail still protruded from under the radiator. Bill looked around for a weapon, but the only thing close at hand was a trash can. He grabbed that and advanced toward the tail and captured the "rat."

I had heard stories about babies being bitten by rats and I knew about the diseases they carried and I was shaking with fury that my baby had been exposed to such danger, but Bill was looking down into the trash can and laughing! He said, "It's not a rat. It's a baby possum!" And sure enough, it was.

Once we found out that it wasn't a rat, we didn't want to kill it, so Bill unfastened the screen and dumped it out the window.

We found out a few minutes later that we had left the basement door open the night before. The possum had not only found his way in, but had climbed two flights of steps to the top floor where he could smell milk.

The story doesn't end there, however. A couple of months later, summer in full swing, I discovered that one of us had again been careless and left the basement door open overnight. "This is bad." I told Bill. "Something more dangerous than a possum could get in." We admonished ourselves never to do it again.

We were spending the weekend with our parents in Rural Retreat, Virginia, so we closed up the house, making sure that all the windows and doors were locked, and went on our way. We returned the next night just before dark. As we pulled up in front of the house, I saw something move in the living room window. It was the possum, trying to find a way out of the closed-up house. There were smears on the lower part of the window where he had rubbed with his nose and his feet to get to the outside world that he could see, but could not reach.

By the time we got the door unlocked and into the living room, the possum was no longer there, but we knew it was still somewhere in the house. We looked everywhere. We listened. We could neither see nor hear the possum. We surmised that it was the same animal that had been dumped out of the window two months before. It was bigger now and smarter.

Finally, after checking Roddy's room thoroughly, I put him to bed. Bill was watching a program on television and I started back into the kitchen, when I heard a noise coming from the stove. We had to pull the stove away from the wall, but sure enough, the possum was under it.

We didn't want to go through this again, so reluctantly, we dispatched the possum more permanently.