The first thump made me think a meteorite had crashed through the roof.
The second made me duck for cover.
For many years I was blissfully unaware of the nocturnal machinations of my mountains suburb. Ordinarily one would expect that once the sun goes down everyone would keep to themselves; that people would lock up shop and stay indoors.
Not so the creatures of the night.
No sooner does the skyline dim than the tree dwellers come out to play, intent on stirring up trouble.
Unknowingly I’d invited these furry little thugs to party by throwing out some old bread for the birds. Not all of it had been eaten, and the smell had carried on the evening breeze.
Initially there’d be one brave soul who would strut in and claim his place at the table, but it wouldn’t long before another would appear.
Then they’d start arguing over who was there first and who had rights to the meal, and the noise of their disagreement would soon alert others. Before long more would involve themselves in the brawl, baring teeth and lashing out with their long, sharp claws.
The argument would quickly escalate, and soon the chasing would begin, with possums running all over the place. They’d jump onto my outdoor furniture, or climb the posts holding up the verandah. Or crash about on top of the plastic roofing sheets, buckling them with their weight.
Their vocalisations are something to behold, reminiscent of ferocious beasts from the darkest tropical jungles. It’s a cross between a vicious grunt and a guttural scream, and the first time I heard it the hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention and my heart thumped in my chest.
I honestly thought it was an escaped panther from the zoo.
Gradually though, I’ve become used to their shenanigans, and with my girlfriend’s help have actually been able to tame a few of them. Not that we trust them that much, but we’ve now reached the stage where we can stroke their fur while they eat. I’ve also taken to buying cheap generic peanut butter, which I spread on cheap generic bread, and I give them this in between spoiling them with fruit and other treats.
Some would say I shouldn’t feed the wild animals, that they’ll become dependent on me, but that doesn’t sit well with me. You see, it is us that have entered their domain, and ransacked their homes. We’ve chopped down trees and pushed roads through the natural bush land, displacing many of the species that call it home.
I don’t feed them every night, I couldn’t afford the bakery bill, but if I can help their number in some small way then I will.
Friends from overseas were absolutely delighted when I told them they could hand feed some Aussie bush creatures. To see their faces when the possums started climbing down from the trees to wander boldly across the lawn for dinner was brilliant.
Stroking their soft fur whilst feeding them was a highlight of their stay, especially when a mother brought her baby for a meal.
I now don’t even flinch when I hear the guys crash-land on the roof. I’ve become used to their jackboot visits and aerial disagreements.
Their arguments are still noisy affairs, but they seem to be sorted pretty quickly, and if not I can always intervene.
Music may hath charms to soothe a savage breast, but a peanut butter sandwich works better.
P.S. Tonight we got to hold a baby possum’s hand. It was still in Mum’s pouch.