Our farmhouse had come with a two-seater outhouse, complete with a metal railing to help the previous owners find their way in the dead of night. We took it apart and dragged it to a new location dubbed it a chicken house.
At twilight one evening we were driving up to the house and saw an opossum stumbling down our road. Coming from the city, I remember our excitement at finding wildlife so close to home.
I put Meredith to bed right away. Being a new parent—and finally a stay-at-home-mom—I was reading her “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens. She was just over a year old, I think.
About that time, Spencer came rushing up the stairs and told me that the opossum, the one we’d passed earlier was killing chickens in the coop. He needed my help. I was in my pajama pants, but I slid on my crocks, grabbed a flashlight and went out to slay the opossum.
The inside of a chicken coop doesn’t smell good on the best of days. But this was a humid and buggy August and the damned animal was eating the entrails of a decapitated chicken and the smell of offal added to all of that was a bit overpowering. Nonetheless we approached the hissing creature with its wee beady eyes and sharp fang-like teeth knowing he wasn’t coming out of this alive. Our chickens had been disappearing for a few weeks now and he’d been caught red-handed.
Having jumped into farm life with a sort of romantic notion, we hadn’t thought to purchase a firearm. The outhouse was a tight space not well suited for combat with a marsupial. We only had a push broom and a maul used for wood splitting as protection.
Taking a life is something we don’t consider lightly. We had no other means of disposal, and we couldn’t let him continue to kill our animals. Our only concerns were to keep ourselves from injury and to do it quickly, no need to make the animal suffer. It was just doing what was in its nature.
We tried to suffocate the creature with the push broom, but just ended up breaking the handle instead. Did you know opossums have a defense mechanism? I didn’t. Not until afterwards. It’s called “playing opossum”. They pass out, the predator doesn’t want to eat something dead, so they are overlooked and after a time, they come to. Well it must have taken almost two hours to kill this thing because it kept coming back to life. I felt like Princess Leah killing Jabba the Hut. Finally he passed out long enough for Spencer to drag him out by the tail and then use the maul to finish him off.
It was emotional for both of us. A lot of adrenaline and a lot of sweat. We gained so much from that one experience. With each new obstacle we are learning. It has us growing in ways we never anticipated. Sometimes our expectations are great and the outcome falls short. Other times we actually succeed. And when we do the victory is sweet.
Today at noon, my dairy inspector called to tell me that our milk sample, the one that we sent in over a month ago, came back negative for toxins. We are officially on the clean list again. Now I have 27 goats in my herd producing milk, not just the 11 we bought after the disaster. It has been a struggle, but we pulled through. Things can only get better from here on out.