Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Christmas Story

Ten days to Christmas.

Twice in my life, I've seen Christmas miracles. I'm going to lead up to the 25th by telling the story of one of a small miracle.

Like most tales, this one begins long before the actual event. It started about five months ago in the middle of the worst drought Texas had ever known. I've lived here for more than half my life and, in all those years, have never seen such a hot, miserable summer. Grass died, foundations cracked, and does abandoned their fawns.

One Saturday afternoon in mid-August I was in my backyard when I saw an unusual sight: a young possum staggering across the grass. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've seen a possum outside during daylight hours. This one was very small.

I'd heard on NPR that bats and other nocturnal creatures were being forced to hunt during the day because they could not find sufficient food to live on.

Being what my friends call a pushover, I went inside and filled a bowl with water and another one with cat kibble. I put the two dishes next to the house's foundation and went inside.

It didn't take the young possum very long to find the bowls. Bob the Cat and I watched from the French doors while our guest availed himself of both food and drink.

Thereafter, every night, once Bob was safely inside, I would leave food and water for the possum. I have a mercury vapor light on my patio. The possum would trigger the light whenever he came to feed. One night, after leaving my trash at the curb for the next morning's pickup, I almost stepped on the little guy. I nearly had a heart attack, and he turned and hissed at me, showing a very nasty set of teeth. Ungrateful little bastard.

As summer gave way to early fall, I watched with satisfaction as the little critter filled out. That feeling of well-being evaporated when I realized he had tunneled under my house's pier-and-beam foundation. I could hear his claws inside my walls between midnight and two every night as he returned home from dinner. It got to where I would turn out my bedside light and say, "Good night, Bob," to the cat and "Good night, John Boy," to the possum.

I realized this was not tenable solution and called my city's Animal Control to see if they would help. The officer who answered explained he would be happy to come out and trap the animal. When I asked what he would do with the little guy once he'd caught him, the officer became somewhat evasive. I hadn't spent all summer feeding John Boy for nothing, so I hung up.

The next day, I asked my brother what he thought a professional exterminator would do with John Boy. He laughed and said, "Oh, he'll take him to the same farm where Daddy took the dog."
I decided the only humane solution was for me to trap the possum and then re-locate him to a park or nature preserve where he would be safe.

More tomorrow ...

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