Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Deanne Blakley-Bellemans - MY LIFE AS AN OPOSSUM HUNTER

If you saw me, you'd probably say, that I don't look like an opossum hunter. But then again I'm a chef and they say that I don't look like a chef either. One of my daughters said I look like a wife. Well, I'm here to tell you, I'm not one of those either! Because if I was a wife, I wouldn't be hunting opossums, simple really! Husbands are prone to saying things like, stay back he's got fifty razor sharp teeth, and a very nasty disposition! I can see that silly, so what else is new? All the while he's brandishing a shotgun in his underwear, while bouncing on the bed, trying to take aim! WHOA, Frank Buck take it easy, it's just a little one (the opossum, what were you thinking?)!

Now that brings up the question, which would I rather live with? Opossums hands down! They're quiet most of the time, never bounce on beds with shotguns, just rustle about under the bed, or under something else, if it's not the bed room type. I'm actually of the opinion that they just come to have a little fun, and maybe eat a little cat food! But I digress.

The first thing I did when I moved into my mother’s former house was to dig a pond. Did you know that raccoons and opossums love ponds? When I caught my first opossum I was really trying to catch a raccoon, but opossums come out earlier in the evening than raccoons, who also just want to come in and have a little cat food. They mostly use the cat door, while the cats say, come on in make your self at home, we have fifty pounds of food in the garage, can we get you some more? Maybe it is self preservation technique; it does seem to work for them. And Opossums, well, cats can't seem to even see them. They say things to each other like, OPOSSUMS no, I don't see no OPOSSUMS! I'm about this time screeching for them to give me a hand and we'll be able to get this varmint out of here. Now the cats seem to think this whole routine quite amusing, and in that rather superior way they have, even seem to enjoy it!

So while trying to catch a raccoon, I caught my first opossum. I set out the have-a-heart trap, baited it with peanut butter on toast, and a little tuna, (I'm a chef, remember) I never go out and see what I've trapped at night, just wait for morning to confront a really mad beast, so imagine my surprise when my raccoon is an opossum! Never having seen an opossum in my yard before, I did the kind thing, I let it go! The next night, same thing, no raccoon just another opossum, different color this time. Well, I'm starting to catch on now, and this one is going to that "better place for opossums" that I've decided to use for opossum removal. So with gloves on, I pick up the trap, trot out the car, pop it into the trunk, and drive to that "better place for opossums." Getting an opossum out of a trap sounds like a simple little job, doesn't it? This place used to be a neighborhood, but all the houses have been removed, and it's kinda spooky, in fact to me it looks like a perfect place for a murder! Now my imagination is working overtime, and I can't get the damn opossum out of the cage, he's hanging on with his tail and all four feet, all the while playing opossum with me! I shake it, I bang it, now I'm getting right up close and personal with this thing and ugly, man you should have seen it and it does have a bunch of nasty teeth, mind you I didn't have time to count them. Finely out he flies and beetles off into the underbrush!

That was opossum number two. Opossums number three and four just stopped by for a short visit, and I was able to just shoo them out the door. Now when you have an opossum in the house, people just look at you and say, well aren't going to get it out? Like maybe I invited it in? I look back at them and say, "it's an opossum" as they look right back with blank stares, uncomprehending. What do opossums do? Right, play opossum and if it doesn't want to be found you won't find it! Number five was in the house for fourteen days. I didn't know he was there for some of those days, but when a vase was pushed over in the middle of the night while he was looking for H20 we met face to face in the dinning room. As I looked wildly around for something to trap it in, we both moved at the same time. As it raced upstairs I shouted “NO!” and dashed after it. Gone, just gone. The next day I'm out getting another trap. I thought a squirrel cage would do the trick, wrong! I kept catching it but the tail didn't fit in the cage. Back to get a bigger trap, now this one was big enough to catch a cougar, presto at 1:44 AM I've got him! According to plan he also goes to that "better place for opossums" I go off to watch fireworks!

Now with past experience such as it was, this year I realized that opossums seemed to be coming and going at will. Another mystery here at the ranch, how were they getting in? Number six made nightly forays under the bed, and as it made so much noise I thought it must be a mouse. I moved the bed, searched under everything, rushed out and a bought two mouse traps, baited one with cheese and waited for tomorrow to come! Hum, it took the cheese, sprang the trap, next baited with peanut butter, now it's taken the trap! Sooner or later it will dawn on me, that “it" is back! Coming around the corner, late one night I come face to face with one sitting on the washer, now I'm dressed for bed, but this is a golden opportunity. I cast around looking for something to put him in, grab my new picnic basket, and garden gloves, as I reach for him, my mantra is, you can touch him, sure you can, just as I reach out, it dawns on me, what am I going to with him if I do actually touch him? How am I going to keep it in the basket while I get dressed and drive it to that "better place for opossums"? With that thought, he's gone down behind the washer, mystery solved! They're just walking right in, coming through the dryer vent and that means they're under the house too! Woe is me, nothing's going right, right now so I get someone to come over and move the washer/drier, fix the hose and now, I think I'm back in business!
But I'm not the one in business, the little varmints just pushed the hose aside again and we're back to square one!

Morning dawned early, 5 AM to be precise, stuff is falling over, with eyes tightly closed, I pretend I don't hear anything. But I have a nagging feeling that I've been here before, I'm right I have! It's another opossum, in the kitchen, a small one, this is really way too much, enough of this wildlife game! This one actually seems to like games, he's pushed every box of tea in the house and some jars, off a shelf in the kitchen! When I finally stagger into the kitchen, it's now chowing down on cat food and doesn't seem to be afraid of me! It looked at me and went beetling off under the cupboards, well of coarse it did, have you seen me at 5 AM? This must be a plague of opossums; does the Bible mention anything like that? I don't think this one is the one on the washer, I think it's a different color, well at that early hour, who would actually know what color it was? So if the one on the washer, was number six, this might or might not be number seven, but who's counting?

The next night, I check to see if anybody is in the kitchen before bed, two boxes of tea are down, and then I'm eye to eye with him in a cupboard! So I got into my opossum fight gear, nightgown, purple gloves and broom, and start removing dishes one by one. All the while he's hissing and being in general a pretty nasty piece of work! About now I'm remembering what my friend Sam said about not, I repeat not, touching it, because it could take off a hand! Lacking a gun I had to go with what I had, it turned out that a broom wasn't going to do me any good right now, so I went with the yard stick! He didn't want to go, and he fought me all the way, finely I gave it a mighty poke, it grabbed the yard stick and hung on like a fish, so I fished him out and on to the floor! He made a dash for the under the, cupboards, but this was a well thought out plan and I had stuffed the holes with towels, so shouting all the while, I poked him right out the door! Number six/seven was barely out the door and number, let’s say eight, is already here!

I had the grand total of twenty-three hours, opossum-less, why is this happening? I haven't seen this one, but I know for sure it's coming in the drier vent! I had wedged the laundry area door shut, and today it was open, so maybe it's a bigger one, now that is scary! It's his move, so back to the waiting game! Or it could be number six returned and I gave him such a thrashing too. I thought he would be in Texas by now! Why me, why opossums, lots and lots of opossums, why?
When I moved into my mothers house I didn't know that I was creating prime opossum habitant, my mother never mentioned opossums! Wait! The cat is behaving strangely; maybe, just maybe she's decided to help me out here and is indicating that an opossum is under the sofa! This maybe the break I've been waiting for, wish me luck! Armed with my trusty yard stick, I'm going down stairs and look under the sofa. Wrong again!

I've wedged everything I can find around the washer/drier, hot water tank. When number nine comes back, he'll be trapped in this small area, no run of the house for this guy! And he comes every night, and every night we do battle, me with the yardstick, I whack at him trying to discourage him from coming in. I just want it gone; we do this for a week! On Saturday my ten and twelve year old grand girls come, we're going off to see pug puppy's and swim at a cousin's pool. Before I leave I check on the opossum booby trap, I open the door and there it is, and it's making a nest out of some of my insulation! I slam the door quickly. I think about it, and call the girls so they can see it, we peek at it, then I open the door all the way, nothing, it doesn't run or hide, so we hatch a plan, Abby, an ace goalie in soccer will guard the way into the rest of the house. Kate will hold the lid of the canning kettle, we have no trap, so have to go with what we have, and that is very large canning kettle. I have the kettle, the yardstick, and the purple garden gloves. I start with trying to just push it in to the kettle, it plays dead, so I reach for it, as I touch it, all hell breaks loose, it moves, we all start yelling, with a mighty whack it's in the kettle, Kate slams the lid on, we got him! While we're getting our selves out the door, Abby sits on the kettle to make sure it doesn't get out. We take it to that "better place for opossums"! The girls don't like the place, so we walk around with the kettle looking for an even "better place for opossums" in the "better place for opossums"! Now you'd think the thing would just dash right out, but no, now it doesn't want to get out of the kettle. Finally we overturn it, give it big thump, and number nine's now in a "better place for opossums".

Number ten? Number ten lives in a little house in the garden I bought for the cats, who though it a very funny idea, and while they were being rude, yukking it up about cathouses in general and how they would never use it, I told them they were ingrates and stashed it on the side of the house. Number ten seems to love it and I love the idea that we both have a house of our own and if she will stay in her house and not in mine, we'll get along fine.

Now about those raccoons....

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