The Crossing
Animal Stories from

By: Alex Schroeder
January 2003

Being a Man of 45 years and a city dweller once raised in the rolling hills of central Texas where the air is clear and the smell of cedar wafts across the hot asphalt roads that wind around through the cutouts of sandstone.  Nature was abundant, and as a child wildlife was everywhere.  Deer at every turn, and an Armadillo in the road every half a mile for thousands of miles peppered with a skunk or two.

Hunting was a right of passage as a youth and everyone in my age bracket of 15 was expected to bring home a Deer during the seasonal hunting time.  As the feeling of power for someone searching one realizes that with a gun, no critter was safe from ending up on the dinner table.  Even if the creature was a lowly Armadillo or Possum not worthy of a meal, of which many dozens were eradicated without remorse by the crack of a .22's barrel in the hands of a youth.

Now living in the bustling guts of a city inhabited by 7 million people for some 20 years, one evening around 6 years ago on a warm humid clear night I heard dogs barking in the distance and thought it might be one of the youngsters jumping fence after fence running from the rival gang or a slow moving patrol car on the street behind the fence.

To my amazement it was not one but two Possum, fat and furry, waddling along the 2X4 top rail of the fence in slow motion some 30 feet from me.  Oblivious to anything but the next step, they made their way along the 100 foot trek to a small shed containing a ladder and supplies, maybe 8'X10'.  The local cats must have yielded to the two regulars who they apparently knew made this routine journey several nights per week.

Climbing atop the small shed the two began feasting on some bits of food they had brought and several acorns and small pieces of food found near the shed. It was well lit with moonlight and seemed like to almost like an evening out for a young couple trying to get away from the confines of a an over familiar small house or apartment and no money for the movies.

They seemed to overly enjoy the freedom and being boss of the shed for a few hours until the need for beverage overcame them and they made the journey back along the fence top toward wherever was home. Maybe a small nest in a tree or very well sheltered spot in someone's attic.

This ritual was a regular reminder of all the things I took for granted when being around such an abundance of small things great. It made me feel like in this world of things not so balanced that there were two young lovers who danced and dined in the moonlight with no a worry in the world.

That is until one day when driving to work in the early morning, it was cool and slightly foggy when I noticed the body of a Possum laying on it's side around three feet from the curb in the street in front of the houses. It appeared to be the result of a late night encounter with one of the metal giants of the alley.

Surely it couldn't be one of my midnight friends, who had not moved fast enough or was unfamiliar with the fast moving cars during the walk to the shed they had made a thousand times before. I thought maybe I should give the Possum a decent burial somewhere close by, and as quickly as the thought came, sorrow and loss overcame me and as I lurched into the street thinking that the city would remove the poor animal as tears fell from my eyes.  Please don't let this be one of the Possum on the shed. It worried me for several days and during the night without prompt I would arise and look at the small shed in hopes of seeing the two, mourning the loss of possibly some other Possum.

It was three nights later that I saw the smaller of the two Possum lumbering along his regular trail, but this time moving extra slow with it's head hanging down and a not too sure if he should continue toward the shed. He sat, not eating like usual for only a few minutes.  Possibly in hope another friend would join. After a few minutes he began his journey back home.

This creature of the night was yet another lonely casualty of the big city, a sole survivor who has lost his loved one to the modern world. How does one human comfort a creature or replace the time and sharing spend walking along the fence over and over with a constant companion.

It has made me for one remorsefully for the days spent as a youth with little regard for the nature of two living things being together and sharing their life.  How can I ever make that up to this universe?  I will start by writing this note about a lost friend who I will miss immensely.

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