The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Possum War Chronicle

By Bob Heafner © 1983-2012

Issue: June, 1983

(Editors Note: The following is a fictional account, based on a true story told to us by Harlow Cockram, of Mayberry, Virginia.)

Back when I was a child, we had one old hen that roosted across the road from the house. One night, after we were all in bed asleep, we heard her start to cackling and carrying on. We knew something must be after her so Pa jumped up and grabbed the poker from the fireplace and lit out to save her from whatever was attacking her.

Pretty soon, he came back to the house carrying something. I met him in the front yard carrying a lantern, curious to see what it was. As I held the lantern up high for a good look, I could see it was a big old possum. They’re bad for killing chickens. Pa had got it first, but as I stood there, looking over it, I noticed something on it’s belly, something moving. Well, there hung six baby possums. We didn’t know what to do then. It made us all feel so bad to have killed their mother. I remembered our cat had kittens so I carried those baby possums down to the wood shed where the kittens were. They were in the corner nestled in a big pile of leaves, both mama cat and kittens. I held each little possum down for her to smell and then laid them in with her own.

When I went back to check on them the next morning, three baby possums were gone but the three that were left were nursing right along with the kittens. I never could find out what happened to the three that disappeared, but the mama cat adopted the others and raised them as her own.

She would really get fretted with them as they grew older and started following her around. They instinctively would try to ride on her back or curl their tails around hers and ride upside down. She would rub against the corner of the house or a tree or anything to try to pry them off her back. Gradually, they got over wanting to ride and while they were “sorta” tame, they took to making themselves scarce when we were around.

Our house was made of old rough lumber and here and there were knot holes as big as your fist. It got to the point that we hardly ever saw the possums other than a glimpse as they darted into one of their holes in the side of the house.

One night, Pa was sleeping sound as a baby. It was a hot night and he had his feet hanging out from under the covers. As he slept, one of the possums clambered up over the foot of the bed and chawed right down on his big toe. Pa let out a yell that would have been mistaken as an Indian war hoop by an experienced Indian fighter and came straight up out of his bed.

From that day on, Pa declared war on those possums but they were a little more elusive than Pa was crafty, so they managed to survive.

Not long after Pa got to where he could sleep at night again, he was laying with his hand dragging the floor, sound asleep, when (you guessed it) up pops a possum and nails him on the thumb. “Outta” that bed he came and from then on, it was outright no-holds-barred war. He was like a man obsessed. Those possums had to go.

Well, have to go or not, those possums weren’t the type to give up easy. They held on through shot gun blasts that splintered the house corners and crowbars that pulled the siding and stubbornly refused to give Pa an inch or an open shot.

The possums always acted friendly to the rest of us and I guess they finally decided to move on before Pa tore our whole house down just trying to catch them.

It would have been easier on Pa if he could have seen then go. He’d kept looking hard for them till finally, he realized he hadn’t seen hide nor hair of them for over a month. It took a lot longer than that for Pa to get to where he could sleep a full night without waking up thinking a possum was sneaking up on him, though. But, eventually, he did sleep soundly again and I guess, so did the possums.