Dame Edna Everage, the world’s most famous Australian, cries out, “Hello, possums!” to members of her adoring audiences. Until today that was the full extent of my familiarity with Aussie possums.
Then I got a phone call from one of our neighbors. “I caught a brushtail possum in a trap last night,” he said. “I’m going to take it out into the country and turn it loose. Want to go with me?”
Damn straight I did. I’d never seen an Aussie possum before. The neighbor picked me up about two minutes later and off we went.
Despite their cute little pointed faces, pink noses, long oval ears and bushy black tails, Aussies are not very fond of possums. With good reason.
The nocturnal, cat-sized marsupials climb up on your roof in the middle of the night, run back and forth from one end of the house to the other, and make a hell of a racket while you’re trying to sleep.
But that’s the least of the problems.
They love to pull off roof tiles and squeeze through the smallest of holes to get into an attic where they demolish insulation and ductwork. They raid chicken coops and eat the eggs and defenseless chicks. They strip the fruit off trees. They work their way into trash cans and spread the debris far and wide. They mark their territory with stinky scent glands and even stinkier urine. And they poop anywhere and everywhere.
We drove about ten miles out of Angaston to a beautiful, isolated area dotted with stately eucalyptus forests and manicured stud farms, pulled off the road, set the trap down and opened its door.
I thought the possum would slowly waddle away like one of his lethargic American cousins, but he took off faster than a Jamaican sprinter, leaping over fallen trees and weaving around the standing ones.
I barely had time to say, “Goodbye, possum” before this little guy disappeared over the horizon.
So much for the American term “playing possum.”