Possums, Trees, and Chairs

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November 11, 2016 by libroshombre


Possums and library trees have been on my radar a lot lately. Possums are certainly ugly creatures, but those who know them best admire them most. For example, “Did You Know That Possums Eat Almost All Your Yard Ticks?,” an online asks. It admitted that while the Virginia opossum, as it’s properly known, drools copiously hisses, and snarls when threatened – “playing possum” is its second defensive reaction – possums are actually rabies-resistant and “eat grubs and insects, and even mice, working over the environment like little vacuum cleaners.

Possums are also amazingly fastidious, grooming themselves like cats and in the process licking off and swallowing 90% of the ticks they accumulate. A study of carriers of Lyme’s disease by the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies tested six species – chipmunks, squirrels, white-footed mice, veerys, catbirds, and opossums – and found that only possums are “efficient tick-killing animals.

That’s no reason to frighten people with possum costumes. The California Angels’ AA affiliate team, the Little Rock Travelers. decided to adopt of mascot called Otey the Swamp Possum two years ago. How bad is the costume? An article on it by Michael Katz is titled “Arkansas Travelers Introduce Nightmare Hillbilly Possum Mascot.” Fan reactions on the team’s FaceBook page included “a horrible redneck possum beast!,” “Does the possum have to be straight out of Deliverance?,” and “the swamp possum is stupid. If you wanted to stereotype Arkansas, a toothless meth head would be less offensive.”

Many teams sport questionable or amusing mascots. North Carolina, a major pork producer and the “birthplace of aviation,” has the Down East HamHawks and Down East Hogzillas, and the Down East Shaggers (the Carolina Shag being a dance step). Don’t forget the Wichita Wingnuts, the El Paso Chihuahuas, or the Montgomery Biscuits. A long time ago I played football in Texas against the Winters Blizzards and the Hamlin Pied Pipers, and played soccer for the Austin College Kangaroos. Texas is also home to Racoons, Skeeters, Unicorns, Hippos, and Zebras. The University of Arkansas should be called “the Possums” instead of “the Razorbacks,” because their original team name was “the Bug-eaters.”

For the record, a group of possums are a passel. In the “Dictionary of Collective Nouns and Group Names, a library reference book, I learned that a collection of lepers is a colony, and there are trances of lovers, routs of lords, bikes of bees, sneers of butlers. Along bibliographic lines, books come in strews, rabbles, squeezes, regiments, and fecks, and there are knots of booksellers, fascicles of pages, and shushes of librarians.

What about those who don’t want their names known? Fictitious names, or pseudonyms, are often adopted by those desiring anonymity for some reason. Author J.D. Salinger wrote “Catcher in the Rye,” “the most taught book of the Twentieth Century,” according to FamousAuthors.org, and other immensely popular works that spoke to his generation like few others. In life Salinger was a privacy fetishist, which became the defining aspect of his life. He had reason enough, emerging for WWII shell-shocked and married to a German Nazi.

So why didn’t he assume a penname, like best-selling author Ross Macdonald, whose real name was Kenneth Millar. Lew Archer, Macdonald’s hardboiled fictional sleuth, brought “unprecedented levels of psychological insight and literary application to the genre,” according to Wikipedia, and a NYTimes critic declared he’d become “a major American novelist.” Millar started writing as John Ross Macdonald to distance himself from Margaret Millar, his wife and a successful author before him. However, John D. Macdonald was already an established mystery writer, so Millar went with Ross Macdonald.

Little did Millar know, but Ross Macdonald’s the name of a library furnishing company. I don’t know the collective noun for library furnishers, but I’ve learned to approach them cautiously. One I trust implicitly is Thomas Moser, who made most of the chairs in Noel Wien and North Pole Libraries. Noel Wien’s are nearly twenty years old, like the expansion of that fine facility. As Mr. Moser declared when he visited Fairbanks, “the walls of the library will someday fall down, but these chairs will still be here.” They came with a 50-year warranty, while most furnishers won’t provide more than a 5 year guarantee.

The trees in Noel Wien’s lobby came with no such warranty. They’re long past their life-expectancy and have grown so tall the canopies can’t be trimmed down without affecting the health of the trees. However, they’re iconic symbols of renewal in darkest winter. I vote with those suggesting their replacement with new treess



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