By Jason Offutt
I knew the popcorn in the snow was going to be trouble.
“Why’d you throw food on the back porch?” I asked my wife, who has the habit of tossing leftover food outside the house, not realizing the “circle of life” lesson from “The Lion King” includes not just loveable meerkats and lions that sound like Ferris Bueller, but things that cause nightmares.
“I put it out for the birds,” she said.
The Birds? Yeah, I saw that movie. So many beak-related deaths.
“When’d you throw it out?” I asked.
Hmm. And it’s still there, I thought, instead of saying it out loud like one of those stupid sitcom husbands who always instigate hilarious hijinks, which in reality would make their wives push them out of a moving vehicle.
“What do you mean by that?”
I guess I did say it out loud. I’d better watch out the next time she volunteers to drive.
“Nothing, dear. We’ll just see if the popcorn’s there tomorrow.” And I slogged out of the room before I said anything else stupid.
I grew up in the country and enjoy throwing this in the face of people who didn’t. I know the smell of manure means money, all baby farm animals are cute and taste delicious, and the world is full of: 1) sharp, pointed, rusty things, and 2) animals that want to kill you.
Sharp, pointed, rusty things don’t actively want you dead, but there are plenty of things that do. Domestic pigs for one. They kill an average of 40 people across the U.S. and Canada each year. Cattle kill 22 Americans each year.
But, inside my home with popcorn scattered on our snow-covered back deck, I wasn’t worried about domestic livestock. I was worried about the animals that lurk in the darkness and are attracted to us by our food (cough, cough. Popcorn), like bears, mountain lions and wolverines.
Sure, the chance of a bear, mountain lion, or wolverine attacking my family in our corner of the world is remote, but we do have white tail deer (that kill an average of 130 people in the U.S. each year), dogs (that kill around 22 Americans each year) and badgers (that don’t really kill people, but are just angry all the time, like Nancy Grace). So having a dinner laid out on the back porch left a little to be worried about.
That’s when the opossums showed up.
Opossum are the only marsupial in North America and the least cuddly of all marsupials. Put a baby opossum up against its kin like the wallaby, koala, or even a wombat, and the opossum loses the cute contest 100 percent of the time. Opossums are nature’s redneck cousins and are never invited to reunions.
Then my wife walked into the room and saw two these white and gray 14-pound rat things eating the popcorn off our back deck. I expected a scream, or at least a squeal before she ran away.
“Oh, my gosh,” she said. Wait. Was that a lilt in her voice? “They’re adorable.”
That’s just great. She thinks the opossums are Disney characters. If a bear shows up, I’m not dealing with it.
Jason Offutt’s latest book, “Across a Corn-Swept Land: An epic beer run through the Upper Midwest,” is available at amazon.com.