How the Possum got his name
By TED ROBERTS, the SCRIBBLER ON THE ROOF
Have you ever seen a possum? Maybe not. But they come to my back door every night and eat the cat food. The Possum is so ugly she scares the cat. The cat jumps up in the tree and watches while Miss Possum eats her cat food. This story explains how Possum got her name.
You see, on the sixth day of Creation, the Lord looked down and smiled at the creeping, crawling, running, swimming, flying creatures he had made; they filled every corner of the Universe. But yet all were different.
The Lord looked down with warmth on his new creatures. And so did his new sun that he put in the sky. It was hot. The animals squirmed and sweated under his strong rays.
They need some shade, the Creator thought. So he made big oak trees. But each tree dropped thousands of acorns – and only one or two found a home in the dirt to grow into another oak. Why waste good acorns, thought the Lord. What I need is a small, quick little animal to eat those acorns. And he can hide from his enemies in the branches of the Oak tree. Kinda like a squirrel – that was the idea.
But, His first try at this new creature didn’t turn out too good. Its nose was too big – it had a long, ugly snout. And the eyes were so close together they crossed. The body was wrong, too. Much too big; with a long, hairless tail. Ugh, he looked like a four foot rat. Something like a creation that Steven Spielberg would put in a horror movie.
Even worse, this big-nosed, cross-eyed, overweight thing hated acorns. And remember that’s why he was made – to eat acorns.
“No way I’m gonna eat acorns,” said the Giant Rat as he sat alone in a corner of creation while the other creatures just stared at him. This rat-tailed animal was sassing his maker!!
The Lord was about to destroy it and start all over again on another design with the same material – why waste – when he heard a roar from the big tiger that he had made the day before.
The mama tiger was unhappy. She was thinking about supper. So, she looked around Creation. She saw deer who could run like the wind (they could kick, too) she saw flying eagles (with sharp beaks) and she saw wolves with teeth. Oh sure, there were small things like squirrels and rabbits, but the mama tiger could spend all day and all night filling up her big belly with these bite-size appetizers. So when would there be time for the long naps she had already learned to love?
She spoke to the Lord: “Maker of oaks and acorns and spiders and perfect tigers like me,” she pleaded, “please don’t destroy this slow, dumb, overweight creature that looks like a big rat. If he cannot decorate your world, he shall feed my young ones. We will eat him. He’ll be breakfast, lunch and supper.”
“Not so fast,” said Old Pointy Nose, who wasn’t near as dumb as he was ugly. “Before you use me to stuff the stomach of that big cat, I have two requests. First of all, give me a sporting chance and put some orange or black stripes on that hungry cat so I can see her well enough to scoot up a tree.”
And the Lord did it – bam – just like that the tiger got her stripes.
Then the overgrown rat said, “OK, now, if I’ve got to carry around this pointy nose in between beady eyes much too close together – not to mention a hairless, ratty tail (I mean I’m so ugly!) – I want a special name. A pretty name for poor, ugly me.”
All the other animals, who were sitting around waiting for names, laughed to think of this gray creature with a “beautiful” name. It was the first laugh of the fresh, new world. The hyena and the jackass – neither one of them beauty contest winners – laughed much too loud. The Creator was angry. After all, they were making fun of one of his children. So the Lord ruled that the Jackass and Hyena would always laugh that obnoxious braying laugh. Yes, that’s why they sound like clowns.
And the Lord felt sorry for the poor, ugly, gray thing without a name. But what was his name to be? All the really pretty names had been used to describe flowers.
“I know, I’ll use one of the flower words twice,” he thought. “You shall be called BLOSSOM,” he announced, “so that your image shall always be one of beauty. Blossom, a beautiful name – just like my flowers.”
All the animals made polite approving whinnies and growls and peeps except, of course, the Hyena and Jackass, who could only make that embarrassing noise.
“Adam, do you hear?” called out the Creator, who was drilling our great, great, great (do a thousand more “greats”) grandfather on all the animal names he must memorize. “Call her Blossom.”
But Adam wasn’t listening well at all. Instead, he was staring at a new, two-legged creature who looked just like his reflection in the lake – almost. Her name was Eve.
“Possum? Is that what you said? A fine name,” said the first man, looking away from the world’s first woman, with only a quick look at the pointy-nosed, whip-tailed ugly thing that rubbed against his leg. He thought the Lord said POSSUM! They DO sound alike don’t they?
Oh well, thought the world’s first POSSUM – at least I’ll be able to see that tiger a mile away. And I’d rather be called a POSSUM than the GIANT RAT.
And that’s how the Possum got his name and that’s how the Tiger got her stripes and the Jackass got his laugh. That’s how I put my granddaughter to sleep every night.