Monday, November 02, 2009

The Great (O)Possum Invasion

The year 1996 was memorable for three reasons. August marked my Dad's 90th birthday and we traveled to Texas for the occasion, which was interrupted with my ruptured kidney cancer emergency. I do know how to crash a party in unorthodox style, don't I?! [Scripture to Go! Part 1 , Scripture to Go - Part 2]

Besides Dad's 90th birthday and my kidney cancer encounter, there was the great possum invasion.

Before we left for Texas and Dad's birthday, we knew there were weird bumps under the floor of our manufactured home, especially at night. Husband(H) with back problems would give a cursory glance through several crawl space openings with a super-sized flashlight, more like a floodlight.....nothing visible.

Our manufactured home had a layer of loose insulation held in place by black impervious material stapled to the floor. In some places it had been torn open for repairs to various electrical and plumbing lines. Critters could possibly make nice nests if they were not allergic to Pink Panther insulation.

At the time we had our third German Shepherd, Gabriela [Gabby for short(G)], about 8-years old. The bumping and racket drove her crazy; she ran from floor vent to floor vent trying to catch the then unidentified critters who seemed to party at night, and relatively quiet in daylight hours. They were a raucous bunch, no doubt these were mating rituals, but we did not identify the critters for a while.

I do not remember when we identified the critters as possums. I remember finding a baby possum dead in the yard. H said it fell out of a tree. G may have had a part in the baby possum's demise.

G was not a hunter, like Luckie, but she hated invaders of her domain. Neighbors were amused, watching her rip the gutter downspouts off the house to get rid of chipmunks. I never found a dead one. She did unbelievable damage to aluminum downspouts with her teeth.

Never doubt the pressure of a German Shepherd's bite! None of our dogs ever bit anyone, but I respected their reputations and did not subject strangers to them. They generally warmed up to persons after they witnessed we were friendly.

We replaced aluminum downspouts with PVC--ugly but still standing.

Discovery of 0ur mystery invaders' identity may have been before the Texas trip. We had blocked every crack and crevice which could be used to invade our crawl space. One morning early I notice a large break in the lattice work surrounding our front deck's base and told H, who checked it out.

Meanwhile a stench permeated a few areas inside the house, like mice who die in the walls.

H worked for the City which frequently trapped wild or domestic pests for citizens, especially if rabies threats were prevalent. He borrowed a trap, baited it with dog food and placed it inside the lattice work near the opening. [These are not critter friendly traps, so some of you may wish to move along to another blog.]

We waited and checked every morning. A few days passed with no results. One morning I carried my coffee out on the deck and peered over the railing. Bingo! Something was in the trap. I awakened H to tell him we had a criminal in the trap.

He dressed and went out for a look. Being a man of few words, especially before a cigarette and coffee in the morning, all he said was "Possum." He carried it off to the City's unofficial and probably illegal dead animal dump; I made sure I didn't know where this was, although I was not a city official at the time.

These critters could form a formidable army as they have 1-3 litters, averaging 8-9 infants, yearly. We were already losing this war without knowing it.

Over a period of time we caught several possums, some were lunker-sized. He caught at least one while I was recuperating in Texas; it was the news of the day when I called him.

When I returned home I spent a few months more recuperating and applied for Social Security disability (I was 59.5 years old), which was granted. During this time the possum trapping continued.

The City work force began kidding H about when we would be serving possum pie, and other despicable sounding dishes, known in the South, nicknaming him Possum Hunter and a variety of related names. Long ago I told H the only meat on our table came from the grocery store. However, I relented for fish, when we were lucky enough to have a decent catch.

During this period of time there was a tragedy in a nearby community where a man shot and killed his wife, dismembered her into parts placed in white garbage bags in a Styrofoam cooler and dumped in Norfork Lake. It was the scuttlebutt for miles around.

I begin to worry about the white bags leaving our house for the city's animal dump, especially if neighbors were watching.

One day I'm sure they were watching!!! One possum was not dead in the trap. It growled at H, which didn't set well him. He came in the house, retrieved his shotgun, and finished off the possum with several blasts heard round the neighborhood. Discharging a firearm in the city limits is a violation of law, but you do have the right to protect your own property---interpretation is everything.

Then he carried the remains in white plastic bags to the city animal dump.

That day I made several unscheduled appearances outside the house around the property so the neighbors didn't start a rumor H was carrying his wife off in numerous white bags, just like the widely reported tragedy the rumors of which were getting wilder by the day.

This was NO COPY-CAT murder and I wanted to be sure we were the brunt of the city's coffee shop's rumor mill.We have several very popular coffee shops just brimming with "official" information to pass around. Some coffee shop regulars, mostly men, make all the stops every morning.

The possum population finally reached zero after several months of no victims. H sealed the opening.

Then began the obnoxious repairing of damaged insulation and black material. This was a dismal period in our lives where finances were tight, I was not working, and hiring the work out was not an option. We had decided that if we could get the mess removed, we would staple batts of insulation to the floor so no more invasions would be possible.

H's supervisor, knowing our situation, offered to help remove the near 20-year-old dirty insulation and black holding material. Despite he and H wearing protective clothing and masks, they both were sickened by dead possum carcasses. It seemed the supervisor was the unfortunate discoverer of a majority of the carcasses.

H then put up the new batts in several sessions. We had no major invasions on our property since the possums, just lots of annoying ants and a mouse once in awhile.

However, the current invasion of note is the home next door, which we watch for the absentee owner. Armadillos are breeding under it. It is 13 years later and H's hands shake a bit. When he heads for the shotgun, Luckie and I head for the Hidey Hole storm shelter.
Photo: old snapshot of Gabriela Von Haus Coward commonly called Gabby; she always thought everyone needed assistance in the bathroom . No doubt occupant at time of this photo thought otherwise! Gabby has a sable coat, a bit unusual in German Shepherds.


Arkansas Patti said...

Very funny story (as most horror stories are years later) that I could relate well with.
In Florida I had a mobile home and got sick of rats the size of small dogs taking up residence in the insulation. All my automatic dog feeders were just picnic baskets for the rats.
With the help of a teenage boy that worked for me, we covered the whole underneath of the home with small gauge hardware cloth. I was brutal to do but effective and was a huge selling point.
Hope you stay critter free.
Nice picture of your beautiful Shephard.

Sandi McBride said...

You have to do what you have to do. I am glad that your home is now safe from intruders! I'd be contacting the homeowner next door before these new interlopers decide to have a good look your way!

Lorna said...

I cringed all the way through this post, but I suspect that was your intent. And I am a tad wussy.

Liz said...

Bless her, sitting outside the bathroom!

What a horror story though!

Anonymous said...

I like that dog.

Kat said...

Hi sweet friend! Life is gradually getting back to "normal" for me so I'm hoping to be able to visit everyone more often.

Wow...what a story!


boots said...

OMG! isnt it funny the things we worry the neighbors will see! LOL.
love the shephard...gonna have to go read the cancer story!

Pat - Arkansas said...

I laughed a bit over this one, Carol, and remembered that the first meal I shared at the home of the aunt of my soon-to-be-husband was baked 'possum and sweet potatoes. I had never before eaten any wild meat other than an occasional piece of venison; 'possum is different.

Nice looking dog was your Gabby.

Amber Star said...

We have had cats for like ever, and they used to go in and out a lot. One evening while clearing the dishes from the table, talking to kids and hubby, and it seemed like inumberable things I saw that one of the cats wanted inside. They would go to the patio door and look up. Well, I reached over to let whichever one it was in, and just happened to look a little closer and found it was a possum. That would surely have been an exciting time if I'd let the goofy thing into the house.