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The South Campus Possum: A Winter’s Tale

Ash Wednesday is supposed to be a day of sacrifice. But on this particular Feb. 17, 2021 – after the year of sacrifice, 2020 – residents on the third floor of Read Hall received a reminder that what makes Grinnell, Grinnell, has not changed. The outside might seem dead, but, well, South Campus is still South Campus.

Note: This story documents a conversation between four Grinnell students integral to the possum incident.  All names in this piece have been altered to preserve anonymity.


Greg: I was the first one to see the possum. I was about to walk down the stairs from the Read Third fire escape when I saw it. Well, I saw the tail first – and the possum was staring right at me. It was gross! It looked like a skinned subway rat but worse. So, I closed the door and ran back inside and told Rudy and we all freaked out.

Rudy: Did you get the part where Greg screamed like a little girl? Because I heard him from my room.

Greg: We called Campus Safety, but they were all pissed. They said that they couldn’t do anything about it and the little possum was just left out there.

Rudy: Here’s how the conversation went down.

Rudy: Hi, I’m here on Read Third and there’s a possum on the fire escape.

Campus Safety: …

Rudy: …

Campus Safety: …

Rudy: … It looks really cold.

Campus Safety: Yeah sorry, we can’t do anything about that.

Rudy: And then I hung up.

Greg: We opened the door again, and the possum had moved to the corner. It was trying to find some warmth, but it couldn’t because it was negative 30 degrees outside, and it was standing on top of the metal fire grate. You could see the frost on its fur.

Rudy: So, we were like, oh no the possum’s gonna die.

Greg: Then, I like, leave.


A possum on the fire escape. Witnesses conflict over objective levels of cuteness.


Rudy: Then, McGeorge came out of his room, but he had zero control over the situation because he’s kind of like a rat too.

Heston: You should see his man cage

McGeorge: Now, I didn’t like this one bit. I know that possums can be dangerous. Occasionally, they will be aggressive and sometimes carry tuberculosis. You should see what my Uncle Roger does to possums on his lawn

Rudy: So, I ask someone if I could borrow a box, because I thought possums were these rabid creatures that survive off of trash or something.

McGeorge: You haven’t seen Uncle Roger’s possums.

Rudy: Good thing I got my TB vaccine.

McGeorge: You know, I said we should approach the possum armed with a six iron golf club. I thought, “What a bunch of nimrods, wanting to touch it unprotected.” 

Heston: The possum is going to jump out and give them a new

Rudy: As they were blabbing on and on, the possum just looked so cold. I felt so bad. I didn’t want to pick it up because (McGeorge and Heston interrupt) shut up – so I got some bread, put it in one of those plastic storage boxes, and it just walked in. It was chilling. Well, it was freezing. So, it was kind of moving around in the box.

Greg: We could only hear it at that point. We were listening to it eat the bread. We could only imagine what was going on.

Rudy: It made the box its own.

After a heated debate over what to do, the conclusion of which resulted in a golf club shoved somewhere other than the possum’s den, the residents of Read Third decided to take the possum outside. The sound of a possum thumping around in the box like a bowling ball is not something you can easily forget. They left it outside of the loggia and checked back up on it occasionally before going to bed. Chicken nuggets appeared during one of these check ups. 

A night visit to the possum.

During the night, the box made a mysterious journey to end up outside of James Hall. The following morning, the residents discovered that the possum was still there, huddled in the corner, along with another generous offering of communion wafers.

Communion wafers and a possum. An Ash Wednesday blessing.

Greg: I think he liked the bread more than the chicken nuggets, because he didn’t finish the chicken nuggets. I was considering, “Maybe I should clean up this box,” but then I was like, nah

Rudy (unprompted): Did you know that one time Campus Safety came to our floor to help with a bat? They came with a tennis racket and whacked the bat and killed it. And I am perfectly aware that they have nets they can use.

Greg: But I can’t believe the possum was still there. Even though it might have tuberculosis, we wanted to keep it.

And so, South Campus had an unofficial mascot for two days. But just as suddenly as it came, the possum disappeared again.

Only the crumbs of chicken nuggets remain.


McGeorge: Some people are way too touch-starved around here.

Heston: Don’t judge, the spirit of Grinnell is watching over us.

And that was that.

P.S. While on a walk, Rudy spotted the possum again, out on the lawn outside of Cleveland Hall. May the possum continue to watch over all of us Grinnellians.


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