February 1, 2004

            Right now it seems like winter, instead of the extended Indian summers we have enjoyed the past few years. That white stuff laying around might foretell a good water supply, but that depends on how the spring goes. And how the spring goes depends, as always, on the performance of Punxatawney Phil, the ground hog. If he’s in the mood, that is. If you’ve ever watched the official Punxatawney, Pennsylvania Ground Hog Day ceremony, you probably noticed the thick leather welder’s gloves worn by Phil’s handlers. You gotta wonder if that rodent is really happy in his job.

            Phil might be on his way to the same fate as the Brasstown, North Carolina Official Opossum. Brasstown (population 240) is the “Opossum Capital of the World,” they claim. There are probably not too many towns that would fight them for that title. The thing that happened to Brasstown’s official opossum might serve as a warning to Punxatawney Phil. PETA got involved.

            PETA, as you know, is the militant protector of all non-human species, from flatworms to Michael Jackson. The PETA creed is that all life is precious, and if you don’t believe it, they may just kill you. Brasstown attracted their attention with its local version of the famous Times Square new year’s eve ball drop.

            At the Brasstown new year’s eve party, they didn’t drop a fancy New York lighted ball, they dropped an opossum. What else would you drop, in the Opossum Capital of the World? Well, not “drop” actually. The procedure was to slowly lower a live possum, in a nice glass-walled designer cage, from a rooftop on the end of a rope, while counting down, “three..two..uh, what comes after two?..,” almost like in New York City. Then the creature was released unharmed and presumably raced off at top speed (7 mph) wondering what just happened, and thinking maybe if the new year was going to go like this, it better go find a road and lie down.

            This tradition had been observed for quite a while, probably ever since Brasstown realized it was the Opossum Capital of the World. But just before 2004, the possum drop fell foul of PETA. To avoid a lethal lawsuit, the drop was modified to involve not a live possum, but one which had already found a South Carolina road to lie down on. In other words, a non-live opossum.

            Brasstown didn’t seem perturbed by the idea of a road kill drop. The candidate was easier to catch, and didn’t require leather gloves, unless the handler was abnormally squeamish by Opossum Capital standards. The possum drop organizer was quoted in the Macon (GA) Telegraph, as observing, “We’re not optimistic or pessimistic - we’re opossumistic.”

            And that’s us. We at Up the Creek are forever opossumistic about everything. We wonder, though, if PETA ends the tradition of Ground Hog Day, stamps out rodent abuse, and destroys an established meteorological career, will Punxatawney be Phil-osophical about it?