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Playin' Possum On the River - The Weekly Holler #24

October 2 · Issue #24 · View online
American Mythology
Welcome to The Weekly Holler. This newsletter is published by Luke Bauserman. Luke grew up in the Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio. As a young adult, he worked in a nursing home while studying history in college. During this time, he made friends with and heard many stories from the old-timers of his community. Shortly before graduating, Luke won the Randolph Stone Award for Historical Writing from Ohio University. Luke is working on his first novel, a mix of Appalachian folklore and history (updates forthcoming). 

This week’s issue features the winner of the Possum Story Contest: 
Playin' Possum On the River by Brian Goodman
I headed out one Sunday afternoon a half-dozen years ago for a kayak trip on Muddy Creek and the Susquehanna River just across the Pennsylvania-Maryland line.
It’s about a 30-min drive there.
An hour of waiting around for the final 3 members of our party to show up.
Finally get around to paddling, up the river and then into the creek.
We’ve never been there before, but were told there is a 20-ft waterfall up the creek.
It’s about a 2-mile paddle, I’d say, from the boat launch to waterfall watching area.
Took about 1.5 hours.
Watching the waterfall. Sky turns from bright blue to dark gray.
We begin paddling like hell back down the creek.
Ten minutes into the paddle home, there is a rushing/churning noise behind us as the wind/rain comes tearing through the gorge.
Now paddling in whipping winds and driving rain.
Motor boats are passing us, heading up into the creek.
“You all might want to stay here on the creek. It’s worse out on the river.”
Keep paddling.
At this point, it’s me with my wife and two friends - four of us.
My other friend and his parents are still back at the waterfall.
We make it around the bend of the creek and out into the Susquehanna and it’s bad.
Swells, wind, rain.
But all we have to do is follow the shore for about a mile and we’re back at the truck.
I pull away from the other 3 kayaks because I want to get back first, pull the truck up and help them out.
I soon realize that was a mistake because they’re bobbing way off behind me.
Then the lightning starts.
White caps now and the rain is coming down in sheets.
Whereas I was able to ride the waves a little bit before, I can now no longer paddle as the swells are reverberating back off the bulkhead along the shore.
The waves are staggered so one is pushing me forward just as the other is bouncing off the wall and slamming me back.
Over the next 15 min I get hit with 3 big waves, which pour over into the kayak.
I’m honestly, at this point, bracing for the big one that’s going to send me over.
I start untying the pouch with my phone/wallet/keys, so when I abandon the boat, I can still get in the truck and get home.
I can barely turn around, but when I do I notice there are no longer 3 other kayaks behind me.
I figure/hope they pulled out onto someone’s front yard beach.
But I can’t do the same because in this stretch everyone has about a 4ft bulkhead on the water.
Waves are crashing up against the bulkhead and spraying water into the air.
I’m trying to head in, but sure I’m going to slam into one of the motor boats tied up on a pier.
I vow that I’m pulling off the river at the first house without bulkhead…but there aren’t any.
There are people on shore shouting and waving me in, but I can’t hear them much less get in.
I wasn’t quite settling up with the Lord yet, but I knew the situation was bad.
Then, at the height of drama/danger, I get hit by another wave and take on a tremendous amount of water.
I reach down to pull out my water bottle and net, which are bobbing around in my kayak.
The net is stuck on something. It feels heavy. It feels full as I pull it out.
Out there mid-Susky, with 3 inches of water in my kayak, lightning crackling around me, white caps, no sign of my family/friends, little hope…there, in my net, is a baby opossum!
At this point, both opossum and man are wild-eyed, open-mouthed, drenched from head to tail and completely confused as we stare at one another.
I can’t even fathom what is happening, so I shove it and the net back down into the kayak.
Up ahead I see the bulkhead ends and there’s a sandy beach.
I beeline for it, let the swells carry me in.
Get out shaky-legged. A guy comes running down from the house to tell me this was just the small storm and a 2nd bigger one is right behind it.
He has a video camera and is taping the lightning and waves.
He was probably taping me back before I made it out of the danger zone.
It turns out my wife and her friends had pulled out a half-mile behind me.
A family of people came running out and pulled them in.
The 2nd storm hits as we’re loading all the boats onto my truck and getting out of Dodge.
Drive home dripping wet…with a baby possum still snuggled tightly inside my kayak - the same place he was the entire drive down and the entire 4 hours I was on the water.
As it turns out, my wife is a wildlife rehabilitator and, just a week prior, a handful of baby possums escaped from their cage and into the wild. This little guy must have taken refuge in my kayak – thinking it was a nice hollow log or dark cave…until it was bobbing around with me out on the river.
I’m relatively certain this is the first time in recorded history a skirmish with drowning has involved a stowed-away, hand-reared, escapee opossum.
Brian Goodman is a 38 year old technical and freelance writer/reporter who lives in an historic 1850s former general store in rural Pylesville (northern Maryland) with his wife, 3 dogs, and a handful of ducks, geese, turtles, squirrels, and, yes, the occasional opossum. He has many strange and varying interests. He’s a guitarist in a punk rock band, student of ninjutsu, amateur cryptozoologist, rogue taxidermist and enjoys learning about Appalachian folklore and superstition. Brian has written and reported for publications such as Weird Maryland, Eerie PA Magazine, and the North American BioFortean Review. He’s always looking to find new ghost stories, local legends, and monster yarns.
Brian says: “Discovering ‘The Weekly Holler’ has been an absolute delight and fascinating trip for me, and I look forward to reading Luke’s book for even more amazing tales and glimpses back at our fantastic and little known American history.”
Check out more of Brian’s writing:
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