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The opossum showing potential
View from the Ledge
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   Here’s some news to the world that a lot of good ol’ boys probably already knew.

  The results of a study published in the Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins announced the American opossum is basically invulnerable to almost all poisons, from snakebites to ricin.

  The importance of this research is that because of a protein in the critter known as Lethal Toxin-Neutralizing Factor — a name that makes sense to ordinary people and actually means what it says and that may be a first in such articles — could ultimately result in development of an anti-venom that would work on pretty much anything.

  This would be really good news to a lot of people because there are a lot of things out there, from cobras to honeybees, that can be lethal and a universal agent to counteract their poisons would be a discovery of major proportions.

  My only quarrel with such scientific articles is one of nomenclature. Is it opossum or just possum? Some say both are correct and I realize scientist must strive for accuracy in their work but the man who wrote possum down the first time and put an “o” as the first letter should be shot.

  While there may be some people who say O-possum, that seems like trying to make something fancier than it needs to be, like calling a plate of snails escargot. Of course, just like escargot you can also eat opossum if you are of the mind, or some would say half-a-mind.

  The opossum is a marsupial and related to the kangaroo, which means it has a pouch. It is the only marsupial native to North America and we can all be thankful it is not as big as a kangaroo.

  The American opossum is an animal that can be found all over the country but is basically a legend in the South.

While it may not be the official state animal of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee or Mississippi, it certainly could be. 

  If you have ever had a run-in with an opossum you know they can be ornery and temperamental critters with a built-in mean streak. Everyone knows that opossums will play possum but some people just have to find that out the hard way.

  And you sure don’t want to get one cornered. When I ran into one in an outbuilding, it stood up, bared its teeth and snarled. I was going to hit it with a shovel but I was afraid that would only made it mad so I left the door open and it eventually went on its merry way.

  Opossums can eat basically anything and I had a friend who had a roaming possum coming into his yard and basically wreaking havoc, eating his garden and pretty much anything else it could find.

  Despite efforts that included poison and traps, the opossum continued to have its own way.

My friend finally discovered that the opossum was not invulnerable to a .357 magnum at close range. 

  I also had a friend who adopted a possum and made it a pet. This guy lived in the woods and kept all kinds of snakes and various animals around his house and was considered not altogether sane by anyone who knew him. 

  He allowed the possum to live in his house and it would sleep in the corner of his bedroom on a dog bed.

  He had it for years and then one day it left and never came back. I think the opossum finally decided the guy was just too strange to live with.

  But in our wonderful, weird and twisted world it is nice to know that a little rat-faced critter we think little about could ultimately hold one of the great scientific breakthroughs of our time.

  And if the opossum produces a defense for poison then who knows, groundhog lard might turn into a cure for the hangover.

  If some sort of opossum juice does develop into a major defense against a whole range of poisons, then the next great industry in Georgia could be opossum farming and who knows what might happen after that.

   If a peanut farmer can be elected president for one term, just think how far an opossum farmer might go.


 Rick Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at