New Bern, NC – I first heard of the Possum Drop in the Clay County town of Brasstown in 2006. It was for a piece I did on things North Carolinian's drop to ring in the New Year pickles, acorns, no New York City disco ball for us. I spoke with Clay Logan that year. He's the owner and proprietor of the Clay's Corner store in Brasstown and the man behind the Possum Drop. In our interview five years ago he uttered words which, for whatever reason, have ever since caused me to associate New Year's Eve with possums.
"And when its over after everyone leaves we turn him loose. Off he waddles into the world."
I'm guessing the image of a possum waddling was just ridiculous enough that it stuck with me and maybe it's a little hopeful too, with the possum venturing forward into who-knows-what this New Year. But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals better known as PETA don't find what the possum goes through either humorous or hopeful.
"The opossum is snatched from her habitat and suspended for hours in a see-through box over a screaming crowd and fireworks and musket fire. The opossum drop can only be pure terror for a small animal whose nature is shy and avoids human contact at all costs, and the smoke and noise can damage a possum's sensitive hearing and respiratory system."
Brittany Peet is counsel with PETA. At 10:00 pm New Year's Eve the possum is brought out in its clear cage and is raised with a rope-and-pulley to about a 20-foot height. At midnight it's lowered as the crowd counts down I'd say just like they do in New York City, but, again, it's a possum. There's music and activities like bull-riding in between and with the stroke of midnight there are fireworks. With 2000+ people expected, New Year's Eve might be hectic for the possum, though Clay Logan when I spoke to him this past Tuesday said between capture and New Year's Eve it's a pretty easy life.
"He's napping and eating right now. He's having a good time. He's not having to go out and struggle for food right now."
Logan says the possum it's a different one every year, caught about a week before the festivities is kept in a 3 X 3 X 6 cage that includes a small half-barrel filled with hay for sleeping and dog & cat food for eating. Conditions aside, the issue of captivity is another reason why PETA believes the Possum Drop has to go. Brittany Peet.
"Another issue is there are no permits that allow a person to hold a wild animal for purposes of human amusement in North Carolina. In other words, it's illegal to do that and PETA is calling on the NC Wildlife Resources Commission to revoke a permit that they illegally issued to Clay Logan and prevent this cruel event from taking place."
Peet says an activity permit couldn't be issued by the Wildlife Resources Commission because that can only be issued in the event a wild animal is injured, ill or too tame to be let loose in the wild, so instead an "other" permit was issued which Peet says was illegally issued as animal cruelty is involved and under law that should prevent the permit from being authorized. Peet says PETA wants the Wildlife Resources Commission to revoke the permit given to Clay Logan but to date they haven't heard from the Commission. In the meantime Clay Logan says they're looking out for their New Year's guest-of-honor and will continue to do so after the festivities are over.
"The old story I used to tell is after everybody leaves we turn him loose and he runs across the road and we run over him and have him for New Year's dinner but that's just an old story. It sounds good we make sure that he makes it across the road and gets back out and runs in behind somebody's house. He's taken care of."
The 18th Annual Clay's Corner Possum Drop takes place in the Clay County town of Brasstown New Year's Eve starting at 9:30 pm. I'm George Olsen.