The tree trunks here in Melbourne, Australia are wrapped with metal guards. This is the kind of thing that gets my husband and I curious when we travel. Forget the museums, forget the art galleries, forget the fireworks display every Friday night over the River Yarra. What’s with the tree tin? That’s the real Australia. You can just feel it.
As we ride around the city we develop theories.
“They’re to keep the squirrels out of the trees,” I speculate.
“But where else are the squirrels going to live if they don’t live in trees? Telephone poles?”
“Good point,” I conceded. “How about it’s to keep crazy crap out of the trees. You know like those bear things.”
“Koala bears? No way. You’d think they’d want a koala hanging off of every tree branch. Think of the tourist dollars.”
“Good point.” We continued to scratch our American heads.
Finally, Sherwood asks the cab driver, “What’s with the tree tin?”
Cabbie tells Sherwood, "That's to keep the possums out of the trees."
"Why don't you just shoot them?" asks Sherwood (Dead Eye) Zern, of Saint Cloud, Florida, near Kissimmee, home of the Silver Spurs Rodeo.
"Because the government took our guns, and we'd get in trouble with the animal people," cabbie says.
"In America, we'd just shoot them."
"In America, you shoot everything."
It’s hard to know where to go from this point in the cultural exchange: to be more curious about the enormity of the problem Australians are facing with pesky possums colonizing city trees, or offended at the gross ignorance and prejudice on the part of the cabbie about our American way of life. I’ll address both.
One) How big are these possums? How mean? What happens if they climb up in those trees? What are the possums tossing at people from up there that makes the citizens of Melbourne have to take such drastic tree trunk wrapping action? Where do the possums go if they don’t go up those trees? Telephone poles?
Two) It is simply not true that Americans “shoot everything.” We don’t shoot roaches. That would be counter-intuitive. We pour gallons of poison over them as if basting tiny turkeys. We don’t shoot the mailperson. We give the mailperson twenty bucks at Christmas and thank her for not throwing our mail in ditches. We don’t shoot the computer. We want to. We want to real bad, especially when it seizes up and threatens to meltdown IN CHINESE.
Possums? Possums we shoot. Especially, when they climb in the chicken coop looking to rape and pillage and thieve eggs. Then possums are going down—American style. Come to think of it, that’s why we wrap sheet metal around the bottom of our chicken coops to help keep nasty possum types out.
Hey! We’re not so different after all.
It’s a small, possum troubled, world after all.
Linda (Foreign Exchange) Zern
PS Australian possums look like something you win for your kid at a carnival. Adorable. Florida possums look like something in the freak show at the carnival. Prehistoric and toothy. Very toothy.