Rural System's

The Possum Pack

A planning document

Herding cats?
Try herding 'possums !

A Tech graduate's seven-course meal?
A six-pack and a possum.

Back in the old days (mid '40s onward) of forestry, wildlife and fisheries at Virginia Tech (as far back as when it was VPI), the incoming students went on a possum hunt. The alleged hunt was part of a calm, non-hazing initiation. It was like a "snipe" hunt, but the harvest was lower. It was a great event near campus, at least once in Crumpacker woods. We walked. There was a fire, great comradeship, tall tales, introductions, jokes, plans for the forestry club for the year, summer work experiences with the Forest Service ... a night to remember. There was excitement ...maybe a possum ? for the tenderfeet/greenhorns/newbies/freshmen. It wasn't like a real hunt with dogs in the dark of night that several of us had already gone on with our dads.

Freshmen saw seniors and realized it could happen to them too ... graduation. Juniors told of experiences counting fish in Alaska and fighting fires. Freshmen (mostly "rats" in the Corps, saw sophomores, out of uniform ... and that they could be human.) There were bonds built, fragile but lasting.

Rural System
A new enterprise described at We hope that you will support, encourage, invest in, and be a major user of this new financial incentives-approach to rural resource management for the longrun
A few things have changed ... and still do.

In the wildlife arena shocking changes has occurred ...some new, some up, some down.

sketch based on rough sketch from Gerry Cross, 2005 to be replaced with his available data

Some of us who have retired are not pleased with the changes made in natural resource management during our careers. We thought they would have been greater or there would have been more clear measures of success. The things that have gotten worse certainly cannot be our fault! Maybe with poor old eyesight we now only see the "glass as half empty." But maybe we do see things that other do not see.

Some of us are a little perplexed because we now see that we have been interested in and involved with "conservation" for our careers ... but have not conserved our knowledge or that of our career partners. Retirement is predictable, but the rush past the final retirement "party" is remarkable in its file losses, discards, and hasty re-assignments. Old timers know some things that need not be repeated, have had useful experiences, and have seen things that others have not seen.

Enough looking back ...

Several of us are thinking about organizing the possum pack (lower case, low key, under the radar) right now for the future. Rural System (when it gets started) will house it initially. Your ultra-sophisticated qualification for becoming a prime possum is that you have been enrolled in forestry and wildlife or fisheries (in various places within Virginia Tech) or the newer College -- any of these -- or that you pledge yourself to the objectives of the possum pack ... improved natural resource management. We welcome you. The people in the pack have never been very exclusive.

About those non-objectives ...

(You can call them non-goals if you want to.) First, we're not

We are a group of Tech people who have watched the College or let's just say the forestry, wood, wildlife, and fisheries entity of the university for a long time. We hope geography alumni will feel welcome. We know what it is like to be in it and observing it as graduates, former faculty, administrators, and retirees. We're the possum pack. We think that we may have seen it clearly as its alumni of various types. It's a furry elephant, a really big possum, that has to be seen and described from many angles. The employability of graduates is based on the record and impression and reputation of its graduating students, its alumni. But that is too narrow a claim for it is based on faculty reputations, on research results, presentations, field demonstrations, on buildings and the entire university..all of it. There is a general total response of people and that response affects their decisions. Improving decisions ... that's one thing for which we work.

  A community of practice

We think that as the possum pack we are special people doing special things, separately, individually, but having a common experience. We are generally proud of our roots and:

The pack is forming

Some of us figured that the possum pack could

  1. make your degrees more useful
  2. help out with continued learning
  3. advise and consult with each other
  4. share ideas ... at least about what to do with unpublished ideas, library, and resources the faster we age
  5. form teams of special interest over and above (or below) agency groups to inform and guide them
  6. discover synergistic relations -- and emcourage others to see and believe in them
  7. help or lead current students (maybe recruit students, for you once heard and knew that superior students create superior teachers)
  8. gain access to special field trips and unique travel events
  9. have a little extra fun
    Conserving knowledge as well as other resources
  10. find new ways to preserve "our good stuff"
  11. get "stuff" to brag about
  12. promote a history ... with meaning for the future

You can join the possum pack for $33.33 bucks. That's to buy you an ugly coffee mug. It will pay for a web site, a student to scan papers, and pay for a little secretarial work to answer questions, and tend the work of any group like this. Rural System gets a buck. (We already have a small donation from a similar-size person and can use others.) We are international and will not likely hold a general meeting. You can hook up in groups via the Internet. We can help do that. Our blog and other links will include ideas, jokes, discoveries, theories, advances, student contributions, and views of the future.

This is not about Opossums... it just seemed like a good familiar local symbol with some interesting traits that might serve some writers' purposes. Why did we choose it? Everything does not have to have a reason. Just 'cause.
We want you to join us and for you to email this to fellow Tech people and to anyone that you think should be in the possum pack, whether they have attended Virginia Tech or not. We want your advice and comments. We'll add your name to the membership. You can join. We'll not ad to your email. Hopefully you will correspond with others on the list, send ideas and messages to the Prime Possum so that they can be shared. You can add your password-site to your "favorites" to check daily...or as often as you pass a possum. We'll send notices about important additions and events.

Maybe this will not work, but we think that it is worth a trial ... and a quick death if it seems to be "playing possum" too much.

Sign up. Send us a check or use the credit-card entry. Send a note to your friends and contacts. They may want to join the pack.

Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above .

Bob Giles (Forestry, BS '55, Wildlife MS 58', Ohio State Ph.D. '64)
Professor Emeritus, '98


August 26, 2005 revised; 2006