The legal and humane trapping of large rodents…

February 1, 2006 at 17:28 | Posted in Documentation of things, Musings, Things related to John Cage | 1 Comment

My father–Hilliard–has a garden in the backyard. In the garden he grows several fruits, but tomatoes are his vigor. Recently something had been eating my Hilliard’s tomatoes, so he set out to put a stop to it.

Step 1, Rat poison:

The rat poison was a terrible idea with a terribly unwelcome side-effect that I will not discuss.

Step 2, Large humane trap:

The large humane trap was an immediate success, within thirty minutes of setting the trap Hilliard had caught a racoon, and another by the next morning. Over the next two weeks he also caught an additional racoon, and two opossums. I was responsible for setting two of the beasts free in a patch of quasi-wilderness that was more than a day’s trek–by small feet–from our house.

Setting the large rodents free was rather uneventful, save the opposum that I set free this morning. When I went out to fetch the animal it was playing dead in the cage. I put a sheet over the cage, to maintain a degree of calm, and loaded the thing into my van. I drove out to a patch of lightly developed woodsy land that borders the everglades and got out of my car. When I had freed a racoon at the same location several days earlier it made a mad dash for cover the moment I lifted the gate of the trap, the opposum however, was a different beast.

When I opened the cage the opposum just bared its teeth and stood there. I made meaningful eye-contact with the beast and stated, “I’m not trying to fuck with you…run off,” but it just stared back baring its teeth and quivering like a scared opossum. I shook the cage; the opposum held onto the cage. I gave the opposum a light poke with a stick; the opposum paid my light poke no mind. Determined to set this beast free in the least commandeering manner possible I propped the door open with a stick and got into my car; I assumed it would flee at first chance now that I, its captor and threat had vanished from sight–alas it remained in the cage baring its teeth, and shaking like an opossum.

Using my hopelessly empathetic human logic I decided to drive around for a bit: perhaps the beast just needed a bit of time. Needless to say, this did not work, although when I returned the beast had moved closer to the door of the trap. Continuing in my vein of vane logics I decided to cover the trap with the sheet: perhaps if the beast can’t see anything it will asume that it is safe to flee. I covered the trap and got into my car, which was parked on the other side of the road. Sitting in my car and waiting for the beast to make its move I became conscious of the fact that I was waiting, engaged my theory on human wait systems, engaged my knowledge of Cage’s music theory, and began listening to insects, distant cars, and passing planes. The music was exsquisite, and I listened for about ten minutes without even considering the possibilities of opposum abscondance.

After the diversity of sounds had faded for a bit I decided to call Hilliard.
…ring ring ring…
“How did you get the opposum out of the cage?”
“I opened it up and it went out.”
“Well this one isn’t leaving.”
“You have to shake the cage.”
“I did.”
“Poke it with a stick.”
“I did.”
“Well just get it out.”
“Ok. bye.”

Although the conversation had yielded no actual solution, at this point I was ready to go home and begin my errands for the day (I was awoken by Hilliard, just about to to leave for work, telling me that there was an opposum in the backyard that needed to be set free, thus this was the first thing I had done in this new day of February). I went to the cage and uncovered it, half-heartedly hoping that the beast had fled without my noticing it; this was not the truth. I picked up a relatively small stick and gave the quivering beast a light poke, to no response. I (humanely) put the stick inside of the opposum’s mouth to no response–at this point I was quite puzzled by its behavior. I tilted the cage and shook it a bit and out came the beast in one piece, it plopped onto the ground and stared up at me, unblinking. A bit of grass from withihn the cage fell onto it’s back and I apologized for getting it dirty. I told the mammal, “Peace dog,” and gave the two-fingered peace sign as I walked off to my van across the street.

As I drove off the opposum was still just standing there, not moving. For all I know it may still be standing there, not moving, although I hope it meandered off safely into the scrub and found something to tasty to eat.


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  1. opossums are nocturnal animals, maybe the thing was sleeping with its eyes open

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