A WILD SPORT
That old Southern
sport of possum hunting is also moving north. It is not moving as fast as the
possums but it is spreading. Every now and then a possum-hunting Southerner
moves north and when he finds that his old friends are around he soon takes to
the woods with his dog.
hunting is a wild sport carried on by night. It lacks form but it is noisy and
exciting. A couple of years ago I had the privilege of participating in a
scientific possum hunt. I had accompanied an expedition of the American Museum
of Natural History from New York to the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee to
obtain specimens and background material for a habitat group showing the
opossum in its natural surroundings.
As one of the main
objectives was to obtain a specimen of Didelphis, T. Donald Carter, mammalogist
and leader of the expedition, arranged with some local mountain men to go on a
possum hunt. Our dogs had been turned loose in the woods only about ten minutes
when they opened up and in a few minutes more they treed a possum. Scientists
and mountaineers rushed through the scrub until we came upon the quarry in a
persimmon tree, silhouetted against the moon.
POSSUM UP A
17-year-old mountain lad who was the official tree climber of the hunt, swarmed
up the tree and eased out onto a small limb. He shook the limb frantically
until the possum lost its grip and tumbled down. Amid wild yells from the
hunters and the barking of the dogs the gang closed in. After a short chase one
hunter grabbed the possum and put him in a sack.
goin' to believe this," Bob Seaton said as we rested before turning the
dogs loose again. "When you folks get back to New York and tell 'em we
found our first possum up a 'simmon tree just where he ought to be, they won't
believe a word of it."
Bob's fears were
unfounded, for that particular opossum is now a part of a habitat group in the
museum's Hall of North American Mammals and it is up in the top of a persimmon
tree, just where it ought to be.
Its presence in
the North is bound to bring a lot of changes. In time New Englanders may be
raving over roast possum and clam chowder and giving their folksongs and rhymes
a Southern tone. There is one old Southern rhyme which goes:
Possum up a
Raccoon on de ground.
Raccoon says to de possum,
"You tho' dem 'simmons down."
The New England version probably will be something like this:
Possum in de compost heap,
Quahog in de sand.
Br'er Possum sho' tastes good.
Cheers fo' New England.