Continued from last week’s chapter 30 of “Hanging Out in Corbett Hill,” enlightening information from my own authored book of humor.

We live in an era of modern conveniences. In the early part of the 20th century, it took weeks to drive the newly invented automobile from coast to coast. Now we fly cross-country in a matter of hours.

One can illuminate an entire room or lengthy hallway with the flick of a switch.

The first viable digital computers weighed 35 tons. A comparable apparatus, similar to the one I’m using to create this marvelous possum tribute, weighs less than 50 pounds. But the explosive force of one giant meteorite could wipe out every one of those luxuries in a matter of hours — worldwide.

The food supply is plentiful, but that too could suddenly change. Grocery shelves are stacked with anything we desire. Butchers fill the cases with everything from pigtails to T-bones, but be wary; all cattle herds could come down with that dreaded mad cow disease and turn their hooves to the sky.

All pigs in all parlors could be wiped out by swine flu. In mass, chickens could come down with bird flu and fly the coop to chicken heaven. But for those who feel they just couldn’t go on without meat, I leave these reassuring words: The possum population will never be wiped out. They are disease resistant, and research has proven that absolutely nothing taken internally can kill one.

Horn of plenty

Within a 20-mile radius of Corbett Hill, there roams at least a 10-year supply of good meat. If times get tough, sure enough, could they and other possum herds across the nation prove to be our salvation from starvation and possible extinction?

I’ll tell you one thang, there’s no excuse for any man in North America to sit down to a meatless supper table!

Some may reason that I speak with a forked tongue by suggesting that eating the new national symbol could be a secondary benefit. “After all, we never eat baked eagle,” you might be thinking. Just answer this question for me. How could you? Most of the eagle’s time is spent hiding up in the mountaintops. Did you or anyone you know ever try to sneak up on one? Furthermore, when a pair finally gets around to mating and reproducing, the female lays no more than one or two eggs at a time.

Play dead and alive

Unlike the eagle, the possum can well fill that dual role: a meat source and our national emblem. There’s no worry about eating their kind into extinction. They know the art of survival far better than their furry friends or, for that matter, anything that soars on wings. For example, when a possum is threatened by a vicious pack of dogs, he instinctively rolls over and plays dead (thus the term playing possum).

Brilliant! The dogs leave his “lifeless” body and trek on down the trail to find something more challenging. Soon they find it, a feisty coon. Unlike the possum, this boy wants to play the hero and fight it out. But Sir Lancelot usually winds up scrambling to the top of the tallest tree, or he casts his lot with a pack of other would-be heroes in coon heaven.

Compare the possum’s ability to survive with that of mankind. Man is more coon-like, and usually approaches danger with the same heroic bristle, especially if he’s trying to impress some dame or another.

If 90-pound, 4-foot-10-inch Bonnie Parker and 5-7 Clyde Barrow would have rolled over and played dead, they wouldn’t have wound up with 50 bullets — yes, 50 — riddled through their lifeless bodies.

In the face of danger, if coon and man were smarter, they would simply roll over, possum-like, and play dead. Bonnie and Clyde probably wound up in H ...; well, your guess is as good as mine! Today they’re probably cavorting with the likes of Jesse James, Al Capone, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd and others who should have played possum but didn’t.

Another reason for the improbability of possum extinction is that the lady gender has two wombs and gives birth two weeks after impregnation; that’s fast. They practice the human adage that they’re “cheaper by the dozen,” for on the average they deliver 12 babies at a time. Labor pains? Hardly; each newborn is about the size of a honeybee.

Will the evolutionary process ever provide man a tree hanging tail?

A final comparison between possum and man: Both have opposable thumbs that give them the ability to grasp an object and hold it between finger and thumb, but only the possum has a tail by which it can grasp and hold on to anything. They have been known to free-hang by the tail from a tree limb in a posture of meditation and relaxation for extended periods of time. I reckon the euphoria must be akin to that of a human with legs crossed in a yoga trance.

The only way man has been able to approximate that tail-hanging feat is with a quart or two of super glue. When a possum finishes hanging, he simply unravels his tail, drops to the ground, and waddles on down to the next possum convention.

When man finishes, he unsheathes a machete, cusses and chops and chops and cusses, till he’s glueless, drops to the ground, and waddles on down to the nearest emergency room.

It is true that when one commits an atrocious crime there is an outcry by the populace “to hang his tail from the highest tree.” But that statement is erroneous and would more accurately be expressed as “his neck from the highest tree.”

I have never tried it, but I think it would be nigh impossible to tie a noose around a human tail. Man’s anatomy is likely to remain that way unless, in a few million years, the evolutionary process sprouts him a tail-hanging hook of some kind.

Here’s how you can help

Should the better part of valor overcome your emotions and you feel inspired to support the Possum for National Symbol movement, get in touch with your local congressional delegation. If your non-tax-free donation is one thousand dollars or more, your name might be read aloud within the sacred halls of Congress.

Better yet, send a cash contribution to me in care of Elevate the Possum Foundation.

Triumphant modification

After the battle is won, we will be able to see the image of a contented possum with his prehensile tail wrapped around the top of every pole that supports the American flag. He’ll display perfect balance by holding on with his human-like opposable thumbs. Gone will be that mean-spirited bald eagle clutching the pole with buzzard-like claws.

Should one of your relatives attain proper military rank, you can proudly tell friends that he or she has been promoted from a lieutenant colonel to a Full Possum Colonel. No longer will the officer be a Full Bird. He will be a Full Possum!

Explanation and warning

Some have an unjustified fear of possums and keep their distance just as they would shy away from a poisonous snake. The two have little in common except both exude an eerie hissing sound, usually as a warning.

When a serpent’s warning goes unheeded, he is likely to sink venomous-laden fangs into the flesh of anything perceived as the enemy. Before taunting a snake, one might want to be sure he’s in a state of repentance, just in case it proves to be his last provocation.

If the possum’s warning is ignored and he feels threatened, he will open wide a pair of jaws filled with razor-sharp teeth and he will bite. His protective aggression is not born of hate. There just comes a time when he feels he must stand up for his rights — a time when he’s tired of simply rolling over. But can one blame him? For centuries he has been hunted, trapped, dog-chased, roasted, run over, rebuked, kicked, scoffed at, and treated as the low-life of the animal kingdom.

Final word of warning: Never attempt to hand-feed a possum. Why? Well, would you paddle your canoe into the shark-infested waters off Cape Hatteras and hand-feed one of those boys a chunk of raw pot roast? I didn’t think so. That’s all right of course if your ambition is to play a certain lead role in the next Peter Pan production.

Beyond the horizon I sense the dawning of a new day. The Day of the Possum. A day made possible by a changed generation. People just like you with a new heart — with newfound compassion. Never again will you view a possum through jaundiced eyes.

So until the tunnels are built under public roads, keep mashing the brakes and squalling the tars. Should the brakes fail, unbuckle, reverently administer last rites, and pray that he was a good possum. Thank you.

By the way, you can read the other 40 chapters of “Hanging Out in Corbett Hill” for just 9 bucks. For your personal copy, see the girls down at the museum on William Street or contact me directly.

Sherwood Williford writes a weekly column for the News-Argus. Contact him at 919-440-8811, or P.O. Box 175, Princeton, NC 27569.