Adventures Animals Childhood Family

The possum king

Sometimes, you’re just where you’re supposed to be in life.

I was off to my local grocery store recently, as I was hunting and gathering for the night’s spaghetti and meatball dinner. I parked and headed into the store. As I approached the entrance on the right side of the store, I noticed there was a barricade of carts blocking off the entrance. Odd, I thought. Perhaps the door was broken. Perhaps a customer had dropped a jar of Newman’s Own spaghetti sauce, and the staff was cleaning it up, and it was the last jar of fire roasted tomato and garlic and thus I was not only going to be inconvenienced but spaghetti and meatball night would be just ruined.

I walked toward the other entrance. I saw a young employee emptying trash cans and asked him why the door was barricaded, bracing myself for the possibility of there not being fire roasted tomato and garlic sauce. “There was a possum by the trash can,” he said.

My time to shine.

I reversed course and went back to the barricaded area. I separated two carts and stepped into the quarantined area. There, behind a trash can, was a medium-sized possum, doing what possums do, which is mainly nothing.

As I was sizing up the situation, the door opened. A manager emerged. I took the lead. “I’ll get the possum for you.” He was not quite sure what to make of this. “Trust me, I’ve done this plenty,” I said. Which is true.

I pulled out my phone and called my son, who was on a bike ride in the area. When he answered, I said, “Hey, meet me at the grocery store. We’ve got a possum.” “Be there in a second,” he said. It’s how we roll.

The manager said that he was going to call a pest control company and that he was absolutely not asking me to get the possum. “It’s OK,” I said. “All on me.” I should carry around an “I’ve got this” waiver form.

About that time, my son pulled up on his bike. “Where’s the possum?” he said, in full-on mission mode.

A crowd was gathering at the store door as well as on the sidewalk. I saw the little critter’s tale at the back of the trash can. I told my son I was going to grab it, but he was the front flank, should I miss. (Fun fact: I never miss.)

I darted my hand in and grabbed the possum’s tale and pulled it out from behind the trash can. At this point, I realized I had not planned my exit strategy 100 percent. I said to Parker, “Here, hold this,” and handed him the possum. As I walked to my car to get a cloth bag, I looked over my shoulder and saw a lot of folks staring at my 13-year-old, standing just outside the grocery store front door, holding a possum. I am sure several folks had some parenting questions about me.

I returned with the bag and Parker dropped him in. I tied up the handles, which would be plenty sufficient for the short transport to some nearby woods.IMG_8537 (2)

I had quite a few questions from the onlookers. What was I going to do with it? Can’t it bite you? Why? (Answers: Release it. Yes. Because why not?)

I know we’re not the normal family when it comes to wildlife. I’m the son of a biologist who grew up catching critters. My son has led a similar path. We know which ones we can handle and which ones we can’t. Possums, we certainly can. I just wanted to get the little fella off into some woods so he could go do his possum thing for the rest of his life, which I hope does not include staring blankly into oncoming car headlights.

When I returned a short while later for my actual grocery shopping, the store staff shared with me that their day at work had been kinda cool thanks to the possum adventure. Glad I could help.

The grocery store now has, by my count, zero possums. And, more importantly, by my count, plenty of fire roasted tomato and garlic spaghetti sauce.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Mt. Pleasant. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.


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