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June 28, 2014

RONN MOTT: These are tough times to be an opossum

Who killed the opossum before man and the automobile? The automobile and mankind have started an evolutionary run on how the opossum continues his bloodline.

An opossum is killed often and has little, if any, defense. A young female can become impregnated at approximately 13 or 14 weeks of life. That is very young.

It is necessary, however, if the opossum is going to save its breed from extinction. “Playing opossum” no longer works.

I noticed it the other day while driving north on U.S. 41 on my way to Rockville (a day I was recording my radio show for broadcast later). I thought it was unusual because on the way I counted six dead opossums on the road.

Then, on the way back, I went to Clinton and came back on Indiana 63, and on my side of the four lanes I counted three more dead opossums. For those who travel a lot in America’s Midwest, this is not unusual.

So, Mother Nature is stepping in and allowing the opossums to breed much younger than most animals. It definitely is nature’s attempt to save the breed before it disappears completely.

I know the opossum is not a pretty animal. He often looks like a fuzzy, gray-haired, large rat. However, we did run an opossum for president. Back in the 1950s, some people conjured up an idea of running “Pogo,” who was an opossum, for president. “I go, Pogo” was the battle cry. Pogo would hang by his tail and philosophize, talk about the politics of the day and make fun of the politicians.

Politics in the 1950s were kinder, softer and nicer. Congress even got things done in the 1950s. Imagine that. I don’t think Pogo had much to do with it, but he was a lovable character.

My friend from old radio days in Terre Haute, Paul Randall Dickerson, when applying his talent and booming baritone voice in radio airwaves in Dixie, was called “Opossum Riley” on the radio. I believe George Jones’ band was called “The Opossum Holler Boys,” and the bar he owned in Nashville, Tenn., had “opossum” in the name.

Obviously, the name “Opossum” has a warmer, fuzzier meaning to people in the South than it does here.

I don’t dislike opossums. I have never eaten one, even though I know they do get eaten by folks from time to time. I think the opossum freezes up when danger is approaching, thus the term “playing opossum.” Of course, no one worries about hitting an opossum while driving. Compared to your automobile, the opossum is very small. And on our modern highways it is bump, bump and goodbye opossum.

The evolving goes on; the opossum gets run over and is barely thought about by modern man and his fast-moving lifestyle.

So, Lord, look after the opossum. I’m sure he isn’t deserving of the fate that befalls him on our modern roads.

For me, it’s so much easier to Go Pogo than it is to swing with the tea-partyers.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

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