Last week I was busy tackling the last of the ironing pile, half listening to a silly movie on TV and occasionally taking a look out of the sliding glass doors to the back porch. The view is prime to observe birds visiting the heated water on the back porch or spotting wildlife in the canyon, especially when deer or a fox might show up. It is often through these doors that I notice Daisy and Spirit making a visit for corn or water.
With my ironing complete, I put away the pressed clothes and folded the ironing board. While placing it against the wall near the windows, I saw a small but burly looking mammal coming from the opening in the fence to the neighbors bottom land. When Daisy deer had her twins, our neighbor allowed us to open a portion of the dividing fence so that Daisy and her little ones could easily get from one property to the other. Daisy did not seem to understand in the beginning that while she was expert at jumping over a fence, her little ones would not be able to do so for several months. It was no time before the twins learned how to follow the fence down to the bottom and come through the opening, to meet Daisy on the other side.
It was nearly lunchtime when I noticed the ragged critter lumbering along slowly from the opening in the fence. I could not yet tell just what mammal it was – a large, old alley cat maybe, or possibly an opossum. I went to fetch the binoculars in order to solve this little mystery. Sure enough, it was the most scraggly opossum I had ever laid eyes on. I looked at the clock and noticed I still had about fifteen minutes before I was to meet friends at a restaurant uptown. Dominique, our art student friend, was painting in the living room, and I told her what I saw! I grabbed the camera and together we quietly snuck down the slope.
As I made my way closer, I could see our visitor was elderly or, at the very least, had lived a hard life. What had appeared to be scruffy hair turned out to be matted areas around wounds and scars. While I did not see the opossum get up on the water tub, I noticed it had difficulty maintaining its balance on the edge of the tub. A cinder block and safety grate I had placed in the tub insured any critter falling in would at least have a support to cling to or assist in climbing out. Our ragged, old friend seemed to be using this cinder block for a perch while his tail slunk deep into the water. A snaggle tooth protruded from the upper jaw, and a thick, floppy tongue lapped up water. He seemed to be in no hurry.
When he finished having several good, long drinks, he clumsily turned around and hopped off the tub. I quickly maneuvered further down the slope for a new angle, hoping he would not see me, but he did. Peering out from behind the backside of the tub and realizing he had been busted, he seemed to think hiding out might be his best option at this point. He then moved under the hollowed area under the front of the tub, and proceeded to “play dead” as opossum’s are so well known for.
Realizing the time was getting away from me, I motioned for Dominique to take the camera. She did not have to leave for school just yet, but I needed to hurry to make it uptown to meet my friends. I really wanted to stay and wait for the opossum to venture back from whence he came. I wanted to see if I could quietly follow and perhaps see where he lived. But, for this day, it would remain a mystery. Dom managed just a few more photos of our new friend before she had to leave as well.
Looking over the photos later, I was able to assess that the opossum had likely been in some kind of battle. A puncture wound marred his right hindquarters, and another injury appeared on his head. Fortunately, the wounds appeared to be healing over and did not look infected. On a few occasions, I had seen Daisy come home with open cuts and puncture wounds. Amazingly, she healed by licking and tending to them herself. This opossum looked a bit unkempt to have been doing much grooming of himself, but then maybe that was due to the time of year. Who feels like wetting one’s fur in these brutally cold temperatures anyway? But what gave me the greatest hope for his healing was his bright, blue eyes. They were clear and healthy looking. His gaze was steadfast and his intent on getting to the water was purposeful. He had obviously been to visit the water tub before, and knew his way around.
I have heard many people scoff at the mention of the opossum. They say it is an ugly creature. Opossums can be ferocious – growling and snarling, and such – but I did not see those characteristics in this fellow. I just saw a crusty, old guy who looked like he needed a little comfort for the moment. And maybe it was best that Dom and I were not able to track him that afternoon. After all, some things are best left to mystery, or perhaps as an adventure for another day!
© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…