"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. . . . 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." ~ the 'possum war chronicle
This emergency medical technician I know, about a week ago she is driving to work, and there is this dead 'possum on the road. She circles her jeep around it so as not to blow a tire. Then she slows way down because there are little gray hysterical creatures milling all around on the road. Tiny gray scrambling creatures. They're practically waving their skinny arms for help.
She is an EMT, so she is used to acting with great dispatch. She hauls her Jeep over to the berm, pulls on a pair of leather gloves, grabs an empty Coca Cola box off the back seat, and dumps the kids' sneakers and toys out of it all over the floor.
The first young 'possum drops into the box with a scree of toenails on cardboard. Plop, plop, plop, plop, four more small 'possums go into the box. One is scared witless and heading hell-for-leather to the woods. She sprints after it, plunks it in the box.
More baby 'possums cling like cockleburrs all along the dead Mother's back. One by one, she plucks them off.
Nine splayfoot 'possum pups scrabble about in the box. But she is not done. She reaches into the dead mother's marsupial pouch and pulls out one, two, three more shivering 'possums.
That is it. No more young ones. Just the stone-cold mother, which she nudges with the tire iron into the weeds.
Back at the house, she makes a nest of towels heated up in the clothes dryer. As their feet touch the warm terrycloth, the tense pups heave tiny sighs of relief, twitch a little, and drop into sleep curled around one another like filigree.
Twenty minutes later, our friend is transporting the box of sleeping 'possums to the local wildlife rehab station. There in the road is one last baby 'possum scurrying in alarmed where-did-everybody-go circles.
He is magically levitated from the pavement by Our Lady of the 'Possums.
In a year or so, he will be telling this tale to his grandchildren.
The rest of the Mountain Laurel 'possum tale can be found at www.mtnlaurel.com/tales/possum.htm.