receptive nation which has been overrun by everything from the English sparrow
to the dry Martini, is now being taken in by that old marsupial, the opossum. A
carpetbagger in reverse, this odd creature has spread from its traditional
grounds below the Mason-Dixon line and is heading north, carrying its multiple
offspring in a built-in suitcase.
There was a time
when the possum was regarded as an integral part of the Deep South, as Southern
as moonlight on magnolias. Down there it has three generally accepted
locations: 1) up a persimmon tree with the dogs baying down below, 2) in a
folksong with Br'er Rabbit and Br'er Coon, or 3) nestling in roasted form
alongside a bank of sweet potatoes.
But now what
happens? Citizens over three-quarters of the country are stumbling onto this
roving mammal in all sorts of curious places. Usually old ghost-face is
encountered at night but sometimes he is apprehended before he has a chance to
hole up for the day. Residents of cities as well as suburbanites and country
folk have been seeing more and more of this peripatetic creature of the
Recently Mr. and
Mrs. John Biele, of New York City, had eerie visitors. When they sat down to
dinner in the dining room of their home in the Bronx two pale-faced animals
would peer at them through the window. Finally the Bieles jack-lighted two
peeping possums with a flashlight. One escaped but the other was still staring
into the beam of light when an agent of the A.S.P.C.A. arrived and captured it
with a noose on the end of a stick.
Mary Luscombe, a
pretty blonde with big blue eyes, also had possum trouble in the Bronx. Attired
in a green Bikini bathing suit, Miss Luscombe was climbing to the roof of her
five-story apartment building. Her intention was to do some sun-bathing. When
she got to the top step, she was halted by a gray animal, the like of which she
had never seen. She started to pet the animal but it bared its teeth in a
snarl. Miss Luscombe fled. Police arrived and took a possum into custody. They
never did find out how it happened to be on a New York rooftop.
In East Rutherford,
N.J., Elsie Hoster climbed a ladder to clean out a squirrel house in her yard.
Sticking out of the entrance hole was a foot far too big for any squirrel. The
owner of the foot turned out to be a half-grown possum. It had grown too large
to get out of the squirrel house. The mystery here was who or what had been
passing food in to the possum.
Last April a possum
was spotted climbing up a 336-foot smokestack of the Eastman Kodak Company in
Rochester, N.Y. When the animal had climbed about three-quarters of the way up
the lightning cable of the stack, it suddenly fell to its death. The problem
here was why would a possum want to climb a smokestack anyway.
incidents as these are occurring in more and more sections of the country as
the animal continues its northward march. Almost anybody can bump into the
animal nowadays, but to most job-holding persons the presence of the possum is
revealed when they drive to work in the morning and see the dead ones that have
been hit by cars during the night. Possums are unheeding jaywalkers and the
great numbers that are hit give an indication of how numerous they have
It is difficult to
determine just when the creature started north. Being a nocturnal animal, the
vanguard penetrated many sections before the general public was aware of its
presence. In recent years they have spread through most of New England. They
also have crossed the border and are now residents of Canada.