Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Possums in the Mainstream

Big news across the world of marsupialia--many thanks first of all to Mac Thomason for the lead to this story appearing in THE NEW YORK TIMES!!
Keep Your Ball. We've Got the Possum.


Published: December 31, 2003

BRASSTOWN, N.C., Dec. 30 — The lights are strung, the stage is set and Baby New Year is waiting in a cage, hissing.

Brasstown, once again, is ready for the Possum Drop.

Yes, the annual New Year's Eve Possum Drop, the one and only, inspired by the dropping of a certain illuminated ball 670 miles away.
Frankly, I believe the one in New York was inspired by the one in Carolina, but that's just me.
On Thursday, at the stroke of midnight, at the exact moment that hundreds of thousands of people holler in the New Year at Times Square, with millions more tipping back champagne flutes and watching it on TV, a few hundred people will huddle at a Citgo station in this little Appalachian town, wearing hunting jackets and hats with dangling ear flaps, to cheer the descent of one confused marsupial.

Talk about parallel universes.

It started 13 years ago, when someone said to Clay Logan, owner of Brasstown's only gas station and vendor of kitschy possum products, "If New York City can drop a ball, why can't we drop a possum?"

Mr. Logan could think of no reason why not.
The law of gravity being universal and all...
At midnight, as he lets a rope slip between his fingers, lowering a possum in a plexiglass cage from the roof of his gas station, Mr. Logan will call out, as he has every New Year's Eve since 1990, "5, 4, 3, 2, 1!"

And then, as the crowd starts going bananas, "The possum has landed!" The possum is alive, of course, and will be released at the end of the night unharmed, if a little shaken.
Nothing like a vodka possum martini--shaken, not stirred.
The show is more than just the spectacle of suspending in the air a fuzzy-headed, pink-pawed animal that looks as if someone stuck it together with spare parts. There are fireworks, the firing of muskets, country food like peach cobbler and bear stew and the Miss Possum contest, a cross-dressing affair in which bearded truck drivers wear eye shadow and strut across the stage with hands like oven mitts swinging at the sides of bursting lace dresses.
Of all the snotty and condescending bits in the story, the part about cross-dressing truckers is probably the one part that will greatly appeal to all those sophisticated alt-lifestyle Manhattanites.
There will also be bluegrass music, including a crowd-pleaser that includes the line, "Down in the darkness, much to my delight, there's five pounds of possum in my headlights tonight."

Life, Mr. Logan says, is full of possum-bilities. Over the years he has worked to promote Brasstown as the "Possum Capital of the World," not because it has an unusually large possum population but because Brasstown "desperately needed something."
And where there is desperate need in the world, there you will find the noble possum.
The town, tucked in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains about two and a half hours north of Atlanta,
...the only town south of Boston (or north of Miami) that anyone from Times readers would recognize...
survives on cattle farming, a few small tobacco plots and industrial jobs where people can find them. Brasstown became famous for 15 minutes a few years ago when townspeople were said to be sheltering Eric Rudolph, the abortion-clinic bombing suspect who was captured in May after five years on the run.
Ahhhh, it IS the NY Times...after all, what good is a human interest story about possums unless we can interject subtle jabs at 1) people who eat meat, 2) people who grow tobacco, 3) unemployment (no doubt caused by evil Republicans), and 4) abortion?
Mr. Rudolph grew up around here, not far from the Citgo gas station near Greasy Creek Road where Mr. Logan does a brisk trade in stuffed possum toys, cat-food-size tins of "possum roadkill" (actually filled with dirt), and T-shirts that proclaim possum to be "the Other, Other White Meat."

As it says on his Web site, "One man's roadkill is another man's icon."

"We love possums around here," said Mr. Logan, 57, as he spat an oyster of tobacco juice and wiped his gray beard. "They're an animal everybody says is the dumbest animal in the world, and they probably are. But they'll save your life. If you're out in the woods and you get lost, just follow a possum track and it'll take you right to the road."

On Tuesday, Mr. Logan pumped gas and squeegeed windshields as his friends prepared the stage in front of his gas station, Clay's Corner. Electronics included a computer system and a 10-foot-tall TV screen known as the Possumtron. Mr. Logan is expecting up to 1,000 people, a lot for a town with 240 residents.
Wow! Thanks for that insight, Mr. Wizard!
In the afternoon, Mr. Logan and his buddies drove out to inspect this year's star, curled up in a wire cage on a breezy hilltop in an undisclosed location. Each year, several Brasstown hunters trap a cast of possums for Mr. Logan to chose from.

"Ain't it pretty?" Mr. Logan asked as he scooped the male possum out of its cage and dangled it by its long, pink tail. His friend, Paul Crisp, nodded and said, "Now, that's a town possum."

"Yep," Mr. Logan said. "Pretty face, nice slick fur."

The possum thing is tongue-in-cheek, Mr. Logan explained. He is a firm believer of the rule that there is nothing funnier than laughing at yourself.
Nothing funnier except when fancy little guys from New York drop in and can't quite seem to understand that the joke's on them, that is...
"We're kind of poking fun at all the stereotypes of rednecks and hillbillies," he said.

Mr. Crisp, who drives an enormous pickup and speaks knowledgeably about gigabytes and microprocessors, said, "We're high-tech rednecks."
Ooops, we forgot to throw in the obligatory slam against 5) people who drive their own vehicles, 6) people who drive their own vehicles that happen to be enormous pickup trucks. Whew--thought the Times might be going soft on us, there!

And for all of you sophisticated sorts, it might be worth reading the Salon article published on this same festival back in February of 2002. It covers a lot of the same topics--not that anyone would ever accuse the "Paper of Record" of looking over anyone else's shoulder during a test.

Now then, having dispensed with the domestic possums, Jim Smith says it's time to run down underneath the globe to Wellington, New Zealand with the boys from Reuters--
Possums on power trip spark blaze

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Teams of firefighters and three helicopters have extinguished a blaze started by two possums that climbed a power pole and short-circuited the 11,000 volt line.

The New Zealand Press Association said the possums were found dead at the foot of the pylon after igniting the bushfire, near Lyttelton Harbour on New Zealand's picturesque South Island.
Bummer of a way to go--I'm sure they were just trying to find a safer way to cross the road.

ANYWAY--there's your possum fix for the day!

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