The Possum Plague of 1929
It’s September of 1929, and apple harvest season is nearly upon us. The local orchard owners are sure their yields will be high, but the nearby marsupials have other plans. Opossums descended on the fruit trees in droves, devouring apples from the ground, baskets, and straight from the branches. As word began to spread from farm to farm, the local papers dubbed this event “The ‘Possum Plague”. Sadly, the rest of the country would never hear of it, as the press were soon taken over by reports of Black Tuesday, the beginnings of the Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression.
What were the farmers to do? Not only did they have to deal with rising costs and lost crops, but after the trees were stripped bare, the ‘possums invaded their homes. One man reported “I can’t keep the dadgum things out of the kitchen! Something’s unnatural about ’em, even my hounds are frightened by the creatures”. Ophelia Brown, a farmer’s wife, wrote to her sister in November: “I cannot take much more of this. The children won’t go outside for fear of the ‘possums. One fell from the barn rafters and onto Johnny’s (her husband’s) head. His scratches healed quickly, but he still checks the ceiling of every room he walks into.” A one-room school house near Nixa was forced to close for weeks after a reported “den of hundreds of opossums” was discovered under the floorboards, and the children were chased by the so-called “alpha ‘possums”.
At long last, a helpful young man named Russel “Rusty” Christensen offered a solution. He found that the ‘possums didn’t touch any garlic, onions, molasses, or fish in his kitchen or stores. He discussed this with his neighbors, and they came together to form a solution. They shared what they had of these ingredients, mixed them with things like manure or woodchips, and spread them through their orchards. ‘Possums hate the way these ingredients smell, and they are often still used as deterrents. The ‘possums retreated form the orchards, and the farmers were finally free of The Possum Plague of 1929.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this story is that it never happened. That’s right, Happy April Fool’s Day! Did we get you with this prank story? If you’re interested in learning about the real stories and crazy happenings of Springfield, join the 2023 Queen City Quest!
Written by Meg Pearson, 2023.