Last week, I saw my very first badger. It was a very exciting moment because badgers are fairly reclusive. You might occasionally see a dead one, but a live one is a rare sight.
I was driving back to the house, in the pissing rain and the dark. When my headlights caught the creature, I first thought it was a giant rat or opossum. Then I realised it was a badger, so I slowed down to have a better look and make sure I didn't kill it.
When I later remarked on the badger to Peter, I thought I heard him say “You should have hit it, then you could have good luck.” I told him I didn't realise maiming badgers brought one good luck. Turns out, he'd said “a good look.”
My impression of the badger was of a punk rock opossum. We saw opossums from time to time in Illinois. One day, I was working at home and let the dogs out into the back yard. Our yard was fenced in and overlooked an elementary school yard. When I went to let the dogs back in, they were grouped around something in the middle of the yard. A something that looked like a fuzzy hat. My first thought was that one of the kids had fallen afoul of a bully who'd thrown their ugly fuzzy hat into our yard.
Then I got out to the ugly fuzzy hat only to discover it was actually a dead opossum. When I called Peter to ask him what I should do with it, he advised me that it might just be “playing possum.” It's not just a cliché or a funny phrase – opossums can actually secrete the smell of death, mimicking death so completely that well-meaning people have buried them alive.
On closer inspection, I reported that I doubted “playing possum” entailed puncture wounds and a broken neck. One or both of our dogs was guilty of opossum murder, or at the very least opossum-slaughter.
I can only hope that Toby never gets ahold of a badger.