Going possum hunting was a favorite pass time in the old days in west Tennessee, as it was throughout the south in general. We participated in this sport with some of the neighbor children and their dads’. Granddaddy did not go hunting. It may have been because he was past that part of his life. He may have done this earlier in his life but I have no knowledge of that.
We went hunting with the Hilliard boys some and also with the 2 oldest Barlow boys and their dad. I have often thought of those days so long ago and how it would be to see these boys again. Both William Parker Hilliard and Franklin Hilliard have been dead for many years. They both died very young.
As I remember possum hunting was not very hard to learn. I believe all we did was walk through the woods at night normally with a dog or two and wait for the dogs to “tree” the possum. We normally had flashlights so we could see the possum in the tree after we caught up with the dogs.
Some people liked to bring the possums back home and skin them and eat them. I guess the way to fix possum was to bake it with sweet potatoes. We did not eat possum at our house but I suppose it helped to keep from going hungry at times.
Walking in the woods at night has some hazards because it is hard to see and even with flash lights we could not see much had to leave them off much of the time. We used the lights mostly for spotting the possums in the trees. We did use kerosene lanterns but they were not very bright.
When the dogs found a possum they would bark and raise a ruckus. When we would get to the tree where they were it was necessary to get the possum from the tree. This was accomplished in one of two ways. Number (one) we would try to knock the possum down with rocks or pieces of wood and if that didn’t work (two) we would have to climb the tree and knock him out. A great deal of care had to be taken not to get our fingers close enough for the possum’s mouth and be bitten. This didn’t happen often because when a possum is confronted he will normally “sull” which means he would roll up into a ball and play dead. They are not generally aggressive.
When we had the possum on the ground we would pick them up by the tail and put him in a “gunny” sack and then go look for more. Sometime there were a lot to be found and sometime not so many. At times we would walk for two or three hours and come home empty handed.
Most of the time we would find at least one possum.
One particular night my brother and I were going hunting with the Barlow boys and their dad. We didn’t stay out very long and as we arrived back in their yard I took the sack and playfully hit their dog with it. It didn’t hurt the dog but the father saw me do it and he lit into me without mercy and scolded me for hitting his dog. I think that was a lesson well learned. You don’t hit someone’s dog even if you are only playing. That really hurt me as I was in no way intending to cause any problem and I knew the empty sack would not hurt the dog.
Possum hunting was a great time and we always had fun with it. Back then there was not much entertainment like we have today. I believe if people would go possum hunting now instead of watching the TV they would be better off and have a lot more fun.