Wynken, Blynken, And Nod

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Whinkin and Blinking, Summer 1984

Wynken and Blynken, Summer 1984

Last week on my way to do some grocery shopping I spotted a dead Opossum in the middle of a road in my neighborhood. It had been hit by a car, it’s body crushed. I personally have witnessed a person with no respect for wild critters swerve into another lane to run over a box turtle. I’ve heard others brag that they run over Opossums because they are “ugly, useless animals.” When I saw that poor creature I immediately started blaming someone for the loss of life I saw before me. I didn’t know who to blame, but my first instinct was that is was someone who thought it would be a great sport to kill an innocent animal, out in the winter darkness looking for a meal.

Sad at seeing it lying in the road, I was sent back into my memory bank where Wynken, Blyken, and Nod still reside. They were three baby opossums I had the privilege of rescuing from certain death after they apparently had fallen from their mother’s pouch when a predator, perhaps an owl, was out looking for a feast for his or her own family during a starlit summer evening.

Out for an early morning walk in the countryside where I once lived, I heard strange sounds like high pitched “CHs” coming from the side of the dirt road I was following. It took me a minute or two before I spotted one, two, and then a third tiny creature (about 1 1/2 inches in length), covered with gray fluffy fur.  They had pointy pink snouts, large pink ears and naked tails. Their eyes were still shut tight. I immediately recognized them as baby Opossums. They were struggling in the grass and weeds, calling for their absent mother. I carefully picked them up one by one, and keeping them warm in the palms of my hands, brought them home.

I immediately called a woman in the area who at the time was helping the Wildlife Center of Virginia to care for wild animals who were injured. She told me to find an eyedropper and had me mix of a solution of milk and a few other things to feed them. They were very hungry and took to the dropper immediately. She told me she had a full house and couldn’t take them right away, and asked me if I could keep them until she had room. I got out the large glass fish tank I had stored away, shredded some newspaper and a few rags, and put a small cardboard box in one corner where they could go and cozy up together. They were my charges for only a short few weeks, but they grew rapidly. Nod, the smallest of them, died a week later. I added canned cat food to the remaining two’s diet which they loved. When they saw me coming through their glass enclosure, they struggled to climb out to get something to eat. On sunny days I took them outside into the grass where they clung to me, climbing up my legs and arms and into my hands.

I was in love and though I had to take time to feed them every few hours, I didn’t mind a bit. I often put toilet paper tubes into the aquarium and they would curl their tails around them and carry them around placing them where they wanted them, like a piece of furniture.

Then the call came from the woman who’d been instructing me on how to care for them. She’d be picking them up and taking them to the Wildlife Center the next day, where they’d be rehabilitated back to the wild. I cried. Heartbroken, knew I would never see them again. But having grown up in a household that often had rescued wild animals living amongst us, I knew they would be much healthier and happier living in their own natural world. Sad for days afterward I envisioned them out in the forest learning how to forage for their own food.

Opossums feed on whatever is around, but especially enjoy mice, nuts, berries, carrion of any sort, and chickens if they can gain access to a backyard hen house. They are also known for their appetites for ticks, those creepy little blood-suckers whose bites can cause Lyme disease.

Please Don’t Harm Opossums! They may look like rats, but they are beautiful in their own right and very valuable animals to have around.

The Day after I saw the the dead Opossum up the street, my daughter sent me this video in honor of those three little friends of ours!


  1. What a sweet story, and video, Joan. A lovely way to fill my morning break. And I’ve learned something of opossums. I did not know they ate ticks. Bring ’em on.

  2. Yes, Janet, they eat ticks! They would be our best friends if we let them!!

  3. Joan — I’ve been called Dr. Doolittle on a number of occasions. Clearly kindred spirits, you and I! I love your story and the video clip. Thank you for sharing Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

    • Joan Rough says:

      Thanks Laurie. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. Being a Dr. Doolittle is fun but also heartbreaking at times!

  4. What a lovely post! I have a new appreciation for opossums. The only ones I’ve encountered have been rather nasty, but I’ve never heard anyone say they killed one on purpose. I teared-up at your memory of giving up your beloved baby opossums, even though you knew it was for the best. I enjoyed the video, too.
    As I’m typing, one of my cats–my”shadow” who follows me everywhere–is lying across my arm. 🙂

  5. Joan Rough says:

    Merril, thanks for stopping by. I don’t know where you live, but here in the south it seems to be a despicable sport among certain people. Your cat sounds like a your baby. I have one but she is very independent. She spent a good part of her first year as a stray, so she doesn’t seem to want to sit in laps. But she loves my two little dogs and they love her too.

  6. I’ve never been a fan of opossums (they are kinda creepy looking) but I’m in the process of editing a memoir about a teenager’s battle with Lyme disease. He was undiagnosed for a year, and the disease totally changed his life. After reading his story, I’d make a point of helping any animal that feasts on ticks!

  7. Candace, The are kind of creepy looking but they are good animals. My daughter has chronic lyme disease and it is a nasty, nasty ailment and in many ways can be life changing. She is nearing the end of her treatment and is doing well. I hope the young man whose memoir you’re editing is also doing better.