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Barney Barnwell, A Possum's Tale

What follows are some true-to-life tales told by a genuine mountain man, my friend Barney Barnwell of Campobello, S.C. (Camp'beller, that is.) Barney has lead The Plum Hollow Band as singer and fiddle player for over 25 years, playing a unique mix of bluegrass and rock and roll that has recently become a trend, but Barney was doing it FIRST. Take my good word for it. Barney is a multi-talented song writer, player, sculptor, visual artist, writer and actor. Please visit him at www.moonshiners.com.


I have raised three hawks, two owls, one crow, four foxes, two coons, two pole cats, two monkeys, eighteen wild turkeys, a ground hog, six lizard’s, two alligators, twenty two snakes and a wolf spider. But I ain’t never had a possum. All my life I have wanted a possum. This past spring I was over at my cousins house. We were sitting at the kitchen table when I seen something run across the kitchen floor. I didn’t pay it much attention until a few minutes later my eye caught something else running out from under the kitchen cabinets. His old lady was fixin' supper when all of a sudden she went to raisin hell. “Get these damn possums out of this house”. A mother had given birth to eight baby possums underneath his house . Around ten o'clock every night they would come up through a hole in the floor beneath the kitchen sink. When the next one came running by I reached down and grabbed him up. My cousin told me I could have him but not to tell my old lady where I got it from.

I am amazed at what all that possum has taught me. The first lesson was - I need to listen to my cousin more. I just thought his old lady was raisin hell. When I brought that possum home. my ol lady run me and the possum out of the house and told me if I came back with it she was leaving.

I knew then, I had stumbled on to something big. I have a small wood shop down in the woods. I found a holler gum stump and laid it in an old aquarium I dug out of the barn. Then me and the possum moved into the wood shop. Right off , that possum seem to like his new home. Then again it don’t take much to please a possum. If they don’t like something you never know it because they don’t bark, cry, holler, moan, bitch, or make any kind of sound far as I can tell. When it comes to feeding one, they will eat anything. Their favorite dish is poisonous snakes. Not to worry. There immune to snake venom . They love eating mice and rats too. As far as health care is concerned, they pose less health problem’s to humans than dogs and cats do. Unlike foxes, coons or other wild animals, they're less susceptible to contracting rabies than any mammal on earth and are immune to most diseases. It’s not only the very first mammal to arrive on earth, it’s the only mammal living today that roamed the earth with the dinosaurs. Unlike most rednecks, evolution has also left them alone . The possum today looks just about like it did when he first appeared on earth seventy million years ago. I told this to one of my buddies down at the local beer joint. As I was showing him my new possum he looked at it and said. “Well, he sure looks good for his age.”

They are one tough animal to say the least. When someone asks me if that possum was still alive, I tell them . “A man that cant raise a possum can't raise nothing.”

Most of the things I know about a possum I just learned recently. I’ve always been the kind of feller to take up for the under dog . They seem to have gotten a bad rap. I guess it’s because they look so much like a rat. And most folk’s think it is. Including my old lady. She thinks there the nastiest creatures on earth. I tried to tell her. They wash them selves after they finish eating. Hell, I don’t even do that. She told me she didn’t care if it took a shower every day. I told her I didn’t do that either . That nasty thang still wasn’t coming in the house.

About a month ago me and her had gotten into it about something. I don’t remember exactly what it was. Anyhow she told me I had drove her so crazy she was going to admit her self into a mental institution . Since that time I have been walking on egg shells. I felt so guilty, I've been staying away from beer joints when I can, and I even quit drinking for four hours one day. That one all most killed me. Well me and the possum had not even gotten settled into the wood shop good when she appears in the door way. I come to tell you I was leaving and I ain’t sure when I'll be back. I ask her what mental house she was going to and she said. “What are you talking about.” I told her what she had said to me about driving her crazy and going off to the funny farm. She burst into laughter and said, "you idiot I was only teasing you. I'm going to Hollywood, California on vacation with some friends." Then she pointed at my possum and said. “and that nasty thing best be gone before I get back”. With that she left. Leaving me with my mouth hanging open looking and feeling like a idiot.

The next day I was still madder than hell when the phone rang. It was my cousin wanting to know if I wanted another possum. The sister to the one he had given me. I said hell yea. I will be right over to get it. My old lady just thought she was mad when she left. If he had said he had twenty possums I would have took them all. And when she came back home she would find them all sleeping with me in her bed when she arrived. It would have served her right. Making me suffer like she did. But that was not to be. As it were she would find only two. So I thought. When I went to get the new possum, to my surprise it was twice the size as mine. It was also much gentler and tamer than my possum was. It never occurred to me that possums had different personalities. Or it could be this new possum was raised up by a seven year old girl who spent every waking moment pampering it, whereas me and my possum would go to the beer joint ever night. Never the less. I was so excited because my possum would be reunited with his long lost sister, and have a playmate to boot. The second lesson I was taught by my possum was. Never assume anything about them. When I put that new possum in the box, my possum came out of that gum stump faster than a slug out of a shot gun barrel, he jumped on his sister who was trying to get away from him by running into a box I had put in the pen for her. He shot in after her. You would have thought that box was some sort of wind up toy the way it was a flopping around that possum pen. It liked to have scared me to death. Lesson number three. Never put your hand into a box when two possums are a fightin.' This was not only a easy lesson to learn, it was also one of the faster ones.

When I finally got the possums separated and gave them there own separate box, I took off for the house just as fast as I could go. All them possum facts I spoke of earlier, about rabies and such, I learned that night. Thank God my ol lady wasn’t home. I never would have heard the end to that one. Another lesson I learned that night was possums are loners. I should have known that. There's no such thing as a pack of possums. They ain't got no friends and don’t want any. That’s probably the reason they have been around for seventy million years.

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