Part I: Thar' She Blows!
by R. Gess Smith
My second and more recent encounter was with Darrell and Darrell; twin, adventurous possums enjoying an early evening road-trip on a starry September night.
Our evening had begun as all others. My husband and I, had retired to our after-dinner patio chairs to leisurely digest the last warm rays of Summer. For one reason or another, the sun had given way to a brightly lit moon ..., and still we sat, regretting the pending doom of Winter, I would have to suppose? After all, the little daytime house sparrows had long since tucked themselves in, and the feeders were now completely void of our most recently acquired interest. It would seem to the untrained eye, that the two of us, and a pyramid of half eaten bread crumbs were all that was left. Little did we know that our prolonged shadows were casting a very disappointing web of intrusion on two other little critters of the night.
I have no idea what "bump" in the night, attracted my attention to the nearest corner of the yard, but something certainly did go "bump", and something certainly did cause my eyes to focus above the garden shadows and toward the top of the fence. All hunched up, and doing the "possum waddle", there came Darrell, balancing precariously on the very tippy-top of the narrow rails. Shocked by his casual demeanor, but not wanting to scare the little guy into an imaginary death, I softly scolded him with, "What do you think you're doing up there? You get on out of here right now!" With that, my husband, Glenn, turned to see who I was talking to. We both then watched as Darrell slowly pivoted his rolly-polly body around, and high-tailed it down the fence, behind the shed and out of sight. We were still grinning and laughing about our brief encounter, when all at once we both spotted a grayish hunched up bristly wad of scraggly hair sneaking slowly along the outer side of the same fence. The "hair", continued past the rake and shovel ..., moving along ever so slowly until it reached the coveted platform of the, "Pyramid of Bread". The next thing we saw were two little beady eyes and a long pink nose poking up through the bird feeder. It was just about then that, Molly, our dainty little rat terrier, also took notice of Darrell's presence. Morphing into a pit bull assassin and with a ferocity that only rodents and rat terrier owners have experienced, she leaped toward the fence with a single bound. Once again, Darrell hung his little head, tucked-tail and pitifully disappeared into the darkness.
The following day, after considerable thought, we decided that Darrell needed a more suitable diet than that shared by a couple of hundred hungry house sparrows. So unlike the previous night, we gave up our places in our after-dinner patio chairs, and removed to the house at a more accommodating time for Darrell, but not without first piling a mountain of dry dog food next to his pyramid of bread. And then we watched, and we waited, and we peeked continuously through the narrow slats of the blinds, waiting and hoping for Darrell's return. I think that it was about 10:00 p.m., when we first spotted the little pink nose inching its way up from the back side of the fence. First it was the nose, then it was the little black beady eyes, then a foot, then another foot ..., then another nose? Yes, another nose and another pair of beady little eyes. Much to our surprise, it suddenly occurred to us that Darrell, was in-fact, Darrell and Darrell .., two little critters of the night.
As we watched with curiosity, it became very apparent to us that one of the Darrells' was considerably smaller than the more dominant Darrell. Dominant Darrell ate first, while Little Darrell, seemingly bored with the whole routine, sat at the end of the fence yawning. This went on for only a few minutes before Little Darrell decided that he had enough of Dominant Darrell eating all the good food first! Pushing his way onto the bird feeder, he took his place right beside his bigger brother, who didn't seem to mind his early dinner arrival one bit. Side-by-side the two Darrells' ate their fill of dog food and bread crumbs, and leaving behind a little midnight snack for later, they slowly backed off the feeder, put their noses to the grindstone and repeated the possum waddle; ..., down the fence, past the shed ..., and into the darkness of night.
This routine continued night-after-night, with different little nibbles being added to their growing menu. It wasn't long before we realized that Darrell and Darrell made several trips a night to the bird feeder. They never ate all of their food at once, and if only one of the Darrells' came, they would always leave plenty of food for the other brother, Darrell. We found this to be a very admiral characteristic of possums. However, it did seem that the Dominant Darrell was always the first to arrive, and though his favorite food was chocolate cookies, he would still leave Little Darrell a couple of small pieces. Not exactly so with Little Darrell. One night he happened to arrive first, but unlike Dominent Darrell, he wasn't about to leave behind a trace of cookie for his bigger brother. Corn, seemed to be another one of their favorites, and was always quickly devoured by both. Other vegetables, cooked or raw, were always poo-pooed, and left behind for me to have to clean up the next day. They would eat raw scraps of meat, but it didn't seem to please them near as much as the cooked meats. Darrell and Darrell, were becoming quite the little possum connoisseurs!
As well might be predictable, we had both began boring all of our friends and family to death with our goofy possum stories. You would have thought that we had given birth to the darn things, by the way we carried on. Every time Darrell and Darrell did something cute, everybody heard about it. One evening after having a nice dinner with my mother-in-law, Marion, we began with one of our stories about what the Darrells' would eat, and what they wouldn't. Marion, quickly remembered an abundance of cat food that she had stored away, that her finicky cats wouldn't touch. She wondered if Darrell and Darrell might like the dry morsels better than the dog food that we had been feeding them. When we left that night, we left with two large popcorn cans full of expensive dry cat food, one under each arm.
All went well for the first couple of nights. Both Darrells' seemed to enjoy Marion's cat food far better than their earlier diet of dog food. We had also spent much time researching possums on the Internet ..., the do's the don't's, and the appropriate possum diet. Dry cat food seemed to be on most of the lists of do's. We also learned that possums are virtually defenseless, and that domesticated cats and dogs are greatly responsible for their early demise. Now, do you think for one second that Glenn and I, thought about what other creatures of the night might enjoy CAT FOOD? No, that's a lesson that we were about to learn the hard way!
As had become my normal evening routine, about 9:00 I quietly tip-toed to the family room window, gently pulled down one of the slats in the blind, to see if our Darrell's had arrived. Instead of seeing the Darrells' perched on the bird feeder, to my horror sat the biggest old yellow tom cat that I had ever seen! He wasn't from around here. He was an outsider, and he was in majorly big trouble with me!!! I hit the back door running, grabbed a red potato off of the patio table, and flung it just as hard as I could toward the fence. My aim was good, and instead of hitting the cat, which I had no intention of doing, I was able to scare him away. Darrell & Darrell had just been saved from public enemy number one, or so the Devil would have us believe. The very next morning, Glenn found Yellow Cat, once again, perched on the bird feeder. This time he was threatening the lives of the dear little sparrows that we had come to love. The War was on! He was after our possums by night, and our birds by day. Yellow Cat was going down! But, the enemy grew ..., and it was no longer just Yellow Cat. Now, it was Yellow Cat, Gray Cat & Black & White Cat. I was beginning to think that they were being bussed in from out of town, since they were all three cats that neither one of us had ever seen before. What were we going to do? Would we have to quit feeding Darrell and Darrell? How do you lay out cat food, and not expect to attract cats? It was a very perplexing problem, and one that was not going to be easily solved. I was exhausted running from window-to-window guarding the birds by day, and the Darrells' by night. Besides, we were quickly running out of our supply of garden-fresh throwing potatoes.
The next night Glenn arrived home with a battle plan. It would seem that the old air compressor that shook and rattled in the corner of the garage for years, was about to be put to some good use! His idea, was to run the hose from the air compressor out to the bird feeder, fasten the nozzle to one of the inside boards, and when the unsuspecting cat came to partake of our strategically placed enticements, he'd let out a blast of air that would send any man or beast into a short orbit. A harmless deterrent that just might work! My job was to "spot" the cat through the window ..., run and tell Glenn, who in turn would race to the garage and wait for me to knock on the wall, when the cat was in place. The very first night, I tip-toed out to the window, peeked through the blind, and there it was! I saw a big yellow face, and flew down the hall, my heart pounding, my pulse racing and yelled at Glenn that the cat was here! Glenn, raced down the hall and into the garage waiting for my knock on the wall. I took another peek out the window to make sure that Yellow Cat was in place, and what I saw nearly brought me to my knees. "Oh my dear God", I hollered as I ran to the garage ..., "Don't do it, Glenn, Don't do it" ..., It's the Darrell's, it's Darrell's." I was frantic that I may have been too late. I was absolutely horrified that Glenn was going to blow away our Darrell's, but by the grace of God, Glenn was still waiting for my knock, and the Darrells' were spared. Lesson learned: Never cry, "CAT", till you've put on your glasses!
Even though my nerves had been totally shot by the earlier near disastrous blow to the Darrell's, I continued my vigilant watch, traipsing back-and-forth to the family room and peering out the window every few minutes, or so. I guess that it was about 11:30 p.m., when the real Yellow Cat made his grand appearance. Following our strategic procedure, just as before, all went off without a hitch. Glenn raced to the garage ..., I took a second look out the window, spotted Yellow Cat still nonchalantly consuming our enticements, and began knocking on the wall! With a screeching whistle and a horrible whizz - Glenn let her blow! Yellow Cat, flew off the bird feeder so fast that he seemed to vaporize into thin air. Our well coordinated response was successful, and Yellow Cat, was never seen in these parts again!
As of this writing, Darrell and Darrell are faring well, but we're still only one cat down with two to go. Black and White cat was spotted at midnight last night, eating Little Friskies by the light of the moon. Glenn was fast asleep, and so with me not wanting to wake him up, Black Cat was able to pull off his heist without incident. However, this story has yet to play-out and hopefully by my second writing, Black Cat and Gray Cat have been run out of Dodge!