Friday, March 6, 2015

Gloria Salavarria
Gloria Salavarria
Gloria Salavarria inherited an itchy toe as well as math smarts from her father who spent his teen years as a hobo during the Great Depression. She learned from him the wisdom of working at something you truly love doing and so she spent her working years as a biochemist and an engineer. She retired in her 50s but after one week of retirement, her husband told her that she couldn’t go from supervising 40 guys down to supervising just one guy and expect that one guy to like it. She next became a freelance writer and photographer for The Elkhart Truth and after a few months, her husband again complained but this time he said that she was just like their tomcat—always “on the prowl” and never at home. Now a widow, she has traveled every continent except Antarctica and she plans on going there one of these days.

Kind of stupid, really

Blogger Gloria Salavarria writes about Kiwis' relationship with the Australian opossum, which generates angry reactions and great stories.

Posted on March 4, 2014 at 6:00 a.m.

So far I’ve found that if I mention ‘possum to a Kiwi bloke, I’ll get an extraordinary story—and an extraordinary reaction.

The man’s teeth will clench, his eyes get a wild look, his face goes red and the knuckles go white—all over a cute little animal that veteran ‘possum hunter, Grant Fitz-William said was “kind of stupid, really.”

Possums are a pest that New Zealanders are trying to eradicate—or at least significantly reduce in numbers.

Originally brought over to New Zealand from Australia in the mid-1800s for fur farming but turned loose into the wilds after the fickle fashion industry no longer wanted possum pelts. There, they’ve decimated kiwi birds by eating their eggs and chewed their way through native forest, destroying valuable trees before man can get around to cutting them down. They also are considered carriers of tuberculosis, a threat to man and livestock.

So most male Kiwis, at some time in their life, have taken up arms, traps, and in general, gone forth into the bush to do battle with the ‘possum.

Among the stories that Fitz-William, who once worked for the New Zealand Department of Conservation, told me is one of a colleague who went out one day with several hounds to hunt rabbits.

The guy tossed a firecracker down a rabbit hole, only to have a panicked possum rush out, and on seeing the dogs, the possum took the guy for the nearest, readily available tree and ran all the way up and dug its long, sharp claws into his scalp. The guy then took off screaming and clawing, trying to get the screeching possum off his head but with the dogs barking and lunging to get to him atop his moving “tree,” the possum only dug its claws in deeper—causing the guy to go even more berserk.

Finally the guy tripped and fell over which was all the possum needed since the guy no longer was a secure “tree” to cling to so he ran off to the next available tree.

For an animal that is “kind of stupid, really” it sure generates more than its fair share of stories—enough to make one wonder more about the hunter than the hunted.

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