Raleigh, N.C. — About an hour before the state House was due to take up House Bill 66, Clay Logan looked on from the third-floor balcony onto a mostly empty House chamber.
"I think it's great that our legislature will look at not just large problems, but small ones as well," said Logan, who is better known as the man who created the annual New Year's Eve possum drop in Brasstown.
For those who don't know the story, Logan started the tradition 20 years ago. New York has its crystal ball, and Raleigh has its acorn, so Brasstown would have its possum. Logan catches a live one, puts it in a somewhat comfortable box, uses it for the festivities and then lets it go afterward.
"We try to get him back close to where we caught him," Logan said.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 people show up for the possum drop every year, depending on the weather. Logan is mostly retired but runs a country store where the event takes place.
The event attracted the attention of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who sued to stop the event this year. They said the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources doesn't have the authority to issue permits to trap an temporarily hold wild animals. A court agreed.
House Bill 66 gives DENR that power. It tentatively passed the state House Tuesday afternoon.
PETA has argued that the event is cruel, putting too much stress on the possum. But Logan said the critter is well cared for and that resistance to the event comes from people spreading falsehoods about it.
"I usually look at is as people away from here who don't really know what we do," Logan said, describing the event as "family friendly." Far from the wrong-headed image of "a bunch of rednecks throwing a possum off the roof," Logan said it is lowered, carefully, in its box.
Once past the House, the bill next goes to the state Senate. Logan said he's been assured it will move quickly through the legislative process.
"I'm just excited it made it this far," he said.
And he was willing to tackle the biggest dilemma in writing about his event: "Do you spell it possum or opossum?"
Logan said he just uses possum.
"You know how the possum got it's O, don't you?" he asked with a grin. "A bunch of (raccoon) hunters went out one day, and when they came back someone asked, 'You get anything?' And they said, 'Nah, just an o' possum.'"