Opossum Pickin

It was a summer evening. My Great Grandfather, my uncle, Raymond and I sat on the back porch whittling and spittin. The lies and tall tales were coming heavy. Neither Raymond nor I was old enough to add any input, but both Unc and Poppa more than made up for it. Supper was over and the wimmin folk were cleaning up, when I see a movement out of the corner of my eye. Looking over I see an old he-boar opossum trotting across the yard, heading for his dinner in our hen house. I figured I’d get my rifle and send him on to meet his Maker, But Unc had a different idea.

 “Possum !” yells Unc, sitting up in his chair. “One of you boys grab him!”

 Well. IF it’s going to be “one of you boys”, it’s going to be Raymond. I had found out the hard way when I had climbed that tree to get a “dead” squirrel out of its nest, not to pick up undead wild critters. Durn thing went up and down my hand like a Singer sewing machine. Yup. It was mighty hard to let go of.

But I digress.

 Raymond hops up and makes a mad dash for the possum trying to grab him by the tail, like Unc was telling him to do. I was mighty involved too … sitting there sipping iced sun tea and wondering if Raymond was going to get bit and if so, where.

 Raymond makes a grab for the critter, but it dodges him, then falls over playing dead.

 “Lookit that !” yells Raymond with a grin. “Durn thing musta had a heart attack and died!” He picks it up by the tail and it gloms onto his leg.

 Old Raymond is doin a fair imitation of a one legged man in a butt kicking contest, as he hops around on one leg, while yodeling and trying to tug that varmint off by its tail.

Except for Raymond, everyone including the possum was having a good time, but then my grandmother ruined it by running out with a screwdriver and prying the critter’s jaw open.

 Raymond had bloody chaw marks and the possum made a bee line for the tall grass on the other side of the fence.

Unc looks at me and says “Grab it, Jess.”

The man was obviously insane.

“Just Keep the Moon Over Your Right Shoulder”

In my eleventh summer I hired on to drive tractor in the hay fields. The man I worked for would cut and bale hay, but instead of being paid he would take half the bales. Pretty smart. In the summer those bales went for twenty-five cents a bale, but in winter that same bale cost ten times that amount. So he’d work like mad during the haying season and the loaf all winter selling hay. Me? I made twenty-five cents an hour and worked my fanny off in the hot sun.

In addition to being a field hand, it was part of my job to be a handy man. I’d keep the equipment greased, gather eggs from the chicken pen from hell and do other odd jobs around his place. In the same pen as the chickens were three goats. The Billy loved to play. (If you call play sneaking up behind a person carrying an egg basket, then standing on your hind legs to butt them into next week) Yup. A good time was had by all. Grrr. After the second time of going butt over teacup I’d had my fill. Picking up a stick about the size of a baseball bat, I’d wait until he was on his hind legs before whacking him between the horns knocking him into the dirt. He loved it. “Great Game ! Hit me again!”

 One night come quitting time in the hay field my boss comes up and tells me there’s a storm moving in and he would appreciate me working the tractor by using the headlights, so the rain doesn’t ruin the mowed and raked hay. Though I had started at first light, I agreed to stay until the baling was done and the hay was put in the barn.

At one in the morning, not only was the hay put up, but the storm had went around us. There was a full moon out and the night was nice and warm. The boss came around and expressed his appreciation at my staying and asked if I wanted a ride home. He always took me home. So I asked why he asked. He tells me that though it’s a seven mile trip to my grandfather’s place by truck, I’m only a mile from there if I was to walk across country. I doubted that as I had roamed the countryside for miles around and didn’t recognize the field we were in, but he assured me by saying “Just keep the moon over your right shoulder.”

I set off. An hour later, I’m wading the Little Deep Fork swamp. More snakes, haints, mountain lions and quicksand than you can shake a stick at. Two hours later I sense something following me. I hade on the other side of an open space and see a cougar on my trail. (I figure it was just curious as to what kind of fool would be out in the swamp that late at night with no flashlight)  An hour later, I’m swimming the Little Deep Fork river, in a spot I’d never been before.

Three hours later, after swamps, sawgrass that sliced bare skin like a knife and black berry bushes that beckoned you to wait with their nice long thorns, I stumble onto the highway. I know right where I am. I’m five miles from home. Some nice farmer gave me a ride in the back of his truck and I soon stood alone in front of the greatest danger of all … “Worried Grandmother.” My meathouse was saved from being torn down only by my ratting out my boss. (Though I think my being covered in swamp slime, bleeding from numerous cuts and my tongue hanging out with tired and thirst may have helped a bit too)

 Waiting for my boss to come and get me for work, she reminded me of that cougar I saw. Instead of armed with claws and fangs, she kept the dreaded cast iron frying pan close to hand.

It was an unsuspecting boss that stopped in front of our gate. My granny is out the door, off the porch and through the gate screaming like she was on fire! I don’t guess that you could have called it a “discussion” as she was doing all the talking, except for his “Yes ma-am” once in a while.

Oh. By the way. The moon travels from east to west, just like the sun. So instead of it setting on your shoulder when traveling the woods at night, just keep in on your right side. : )