Live or in a stew pot, the possum drops

Published 7:36 pm Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Live or in a stew pot, the possum drops

Contrary to some news reports, Clay Logan has not capitulated. The Brasstown, N.C. Possum Drop will be held next New Year’s Eve, as it has most years for the past several decades.

And just as sure as Mr. Logan is determined to hold another Possum Drop, you can be almost as certain that Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) will file another suit to try and stop him.

If you’re completely confused at this point, a little background might help.

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Decades ago, Mr. Logan decided that Brasstown, located in the mountains of North Carolina, just north of the Georgia state line, could use some holiday entertainment. He caught an opossum, put it in a cage and, as midnight approached, gently lowered it from the roof of his gas station/country store, a spoof on a much more expensive ball being lowered at the same time into Times Square.

In time, the Possum Drop because a Brasstown tradition and as many as 300 people would show up to eat bear stew, drink free hot chocolate and coffee (no liquor allowed) listen to bluegrass music and watch the possum descend. (The opossum is always released, unhurt, after the festivities.)

That was pretty much the way it was until 10 years ago, when someone at PETA learned about the Possum Drop. The organization threatened suit and took the story of Mr. Logan’s alleged ill-treatment of opossums nationwide. He was frightening opossums, PETA opined.

We wrote about the Possum Drop back then, thinking PETA had won and bemoaning the loss of a pretty innocent country event.

Then, this week, there was another national news story reporting the demise of the Possum Drop. What gives? Didn’t it die a decade ago?

Well, no. According to Clay Logan, whom we interviewed by phone, he continued catching opossums and PETA continued filing lawsuits every year for the next decade.

In the meantime, the North Carolina General Assembly overwhelmingly passed not one, but two, pieces of legislation specifically enabling Mr. Logan to continue lowering opossums off his building. One statute is known as the Opossum Right to Work Act and the other is the Clay County Opossum Exclusion, which allows Mr. Logan to do pretty much anything he wants with an opossum between Christmas Day and Jan. 5.

Despite the new state laws, PETA filed its annual suit in December and by the time Mr. Logan could get cleared by the court to apply for his annual state opossum permit, it was too late to have the permit processed.

Word was that Mr. Logan would have to use road kill — apparently not difficult to find in and around Brasstown. But that’s not what happened. Instead, Mr. Logan legally killed an opossum, cooked it and lowered opossum stew off the building.

During the interview, Mr. Logan said he really didn’t want to fight with PETA and said that if the organization had come to him a decade ago and asked to sit and talk privately about the Possum Drop, “I would probably have worked with them. But they smeared my name all over the Internet.” And that made him mad.

So, he continued to defy PETA. And the Possum Drop? In the years since PETA made it a national issue, it grown steadily. Today, it attracts about 3,000 people, 10 times more than a decade ago, and by far the biggest event each year in Brasstown.

Next year, Mr. Logan vows to use a live opossum once again, and my bet is that the opossum, frightened or not, will be happier coming off the service station roof in a cage than in a stew pot.