Do you hear bumps in the night?

Do you ever hear bumps in the middle of the night and wonder what is on your roof or in

Do you ever hear bumps in the middle of the night and wonder what is on your roof or in your ceiling? As a child in the 50s and 60s, I lived on a property in Brisbane which had a large forest in the back yard and there were trees all around the house. It was quite often we had noises on the roof or bumps in the ceiling. I can remember Dad getting a man up to fix the hot water system which at the time was in the ceiling, and he came down really quickly because of the very large carpet snake that lived inside.

It was quite common to have Brushtail possums coming and going across the roof at night, and often they would lift up the tiles and climb right inside. They are the only marsupials that provide an all year round, totally free of charge building inspection service. The house had been built by my grandfather back in 1920 and was a timber home that had been kept in very good condition, however if there is ever going to be a hole in your roof, the possums will find it. 

The numbers of possums varied, but when they got comfortable and started nesting and having families, there was a down side to the problem. Yes, the yellowish brown stains that appeared on the ceiling of the house would be these delightful animals adding their mark, and these dribble marks down the VJ walls looked totally disgusting. Originally my father had asked the Council for a permit just after World War II, and they issued him with a lifetime permit to shoot the possums (I actually found the permit just after he passed away). Just shows you how much times have changed.

Dad never did shoot the possums even though they became rather annoying at times. My mother would not have allowed him, even if he wanted to. He would go up on the roof and repair the holes where the possums got through into the roof. As he got older, getting up on the roof was not an option, so he built a very fancy possum trap that looked a bit like a square box of very strong wire, with a door made out of metal. The door would be held up by a nail that was tied to a piece of string that led to a piece of banana or apple that he would string at the opposite end of the cage.

Dad actually spent time teaching us how to set the trap when we were kids. He would slide the cage on to the roof and set it open ready to catch a possum and was very particular where he put it, so it could not fall off the roof. When the possum walked into the trap and grabbed the banana, the nail would slide out from under the door and the door would close. The possum would generally stay there till morning and then Dad would take the possum in the trap across the river (driving about 30km to get to the other side). He would release the possum near some bushes where he could not be seen, and return home. He caught 24 possums one season and drove over to the other side of the river.  

One day he was boasting to his friend Jack about how many possums he had caught that season and Jack was telling him about his own catch. Seemed Dad had caught nearly as many as his friend.  Then he asked him where he took the possums when he caught them, Jack said he just caught them in a trap and took them across the river to the other side and dumped them there. Jack lived directly on the other side of the river from Dad, you could actually see his house. Bit like an exchange program was going on without each knowing of the other’s activities. I believe this exchange went on until both men were far too old to bother with the problem. Dad passed at 91 years and his permit lives on as a little bit of history for the wall.

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