By LARRY WOODY
Folks in Brasstown, N.C. couldn't properly ring in the New Year awhile back when they weren't permitted to plunge a possum off a rooftop.
They'd been doing it for years without a problem - no wear and tear on the possum - but once PETA got wind of it, that was it. PETA exerted so much pressure that the possum plungers surrendered.
What's the world coming to? It's a sad state of affairs when you can't pitch a possum.
In New York City they lower a ball to celebrate New Year's Eve and nobody objects. But drop a possum off a roof and see what happens.
The possum was perfectly safe, understand. It was placed in a decorative cage and carefully lowered down at the stroke of midnight. Excited crowds estimated at 3,000 would turn out to watch the Possum Drop (which says something about the night-life in Brasstown).
Once the possum was safely on the ground it was set free to return to the woods and get on with its life.
The possum seemed to enjoy the ride, based on the grin on its face.
Imagine the stories the paroled possum could tell to his fishing buddies - it was like being abducted by aliens, only plunged instead of probed.
"It was good, clean family fun," said Bob, a spokesman for the group of deposed possum-plungers. "If we were a bunch of drunks down there, nobody would probably have said nothing about it."
The way Bob saw it, they were actually doing the possum a favor. By putting him in a cage for awhile, they prolonged his life.
"Their destiny is to be run over," Bob said, "so if you don't get run over in 2012, we've extended his life to 2013.
Interesting philosophy. Bob's clearly a deep-thinker.
I've always found possums to be fascinating critters. They're extremely prolific breeders, like Jessica Simpson, and can bear litters of up to 13. Possums are the Octomoms of the Animal Kingdom.
Possums, like kangaroos, are members of the marsupial family. They carry their new-born in pouches for several weeks before the youngsters come out and begin texting and playing video games. (No wait - I've confused possums with teenagers.)
A possum is slow and clumsy and is constantly being bullied by other animals. Instead of fighting back, the pacifist possum employs a protective ploy, falling over and pretending to be dead. It's called "playing possum." (I tried it in the second graded when Booger Barnes threatened to beat me up and take my lunch money. It didn't work.)
You have to admire a possum's perseverance. Despite having no skills, ambition, or visible means of support, possums - like my brother-in-law -- somehow survive. They've been around for millions of years, getting along just fine without the protection of PETA.
Back to the dropped Possum Drop: is there a chance that it could be resumed at some point in the future, perhaps after PETA has gone extinct from trying to subsist on bean sprouts and turnip juice?
"We're not pessimistic or optimistic," Bob says. "We're sorta possum-istic."