HOST: ’Tis the podcast season for difficult conversations… but on this New Year’s Eve episode…we’re bringing you something a little different…just one story that we couldn’t resist sharing.
It’s the StoryCorps podcast from NPR… I’m your host Jasmyn Morris.
And as we look back on the last year and prepare to move into a new one… many people will be watching the ball drop in Times Square… but you’re probably unaware that the “real” action will be happening in Tallapoosa, Georgia.
That’s where Bud and Jackie Jones live. They are career taxidermists… and they helped establish a completely different kind of New Year’s Eve tradition in their small town. Instead of counting down the new year with a lighted ball… they use a stuffed possum that they lower at midnight.
Bud and Jackie sat down together for StoryCorps to share the love story that helped launch it all.
Bud Jones (BJ): What do you remember about our first date?
Jackie Jones (JJ): Well, I got in the car and you said, ’Now, don’t get excited, Jackie, but my pet snake is loose in this car,’ and I’m not a snake person.
BJ: But you toughed it out, didn’t you?
JJ: I toughed it out. You were a hot number for me. We dated for two years, and then we decided to elope.
BJ: I remember you didn’t want your mother and daddy to know where we were going, so you threw your clothes out the window.
JJ: I did.
BJ: And just as we were getting ready to leave, Ivey Pope called and said he had killed a strange bird in his lake and wanted me to come and look at it. So we went over to Ivey Pope’s lake and he had just killed a duck.
JJ: And by then it was night and we had to go to the judge’s house and, when we got there, he was drunk.
BJ: Well, he wasn’t exactly drunk, he was just kind of wobbling a little bit.
JJ: He was feeling real good.
BJ: Yeah, he was feeling good.
JJ: Well I must have been crazy in love to go through this.
We seldom ever have an argument, but if it is, it’s about something like an elephant’s eye. But I’ll say right here that you do know a lot.
BJ: Well, I’ll be. I need to record that.
JJ: Tell me the story about Spencer.
BJ: There was this big possum on the side of the road. He wasn’t hurt at all, except he was dead. So, I said, ’Well, he’ll make a nice mount.’ So I got out and mounted him hanging by his tail, and I never thought Spencer would be a celebrity.
You know, Tallapoosa, before it was incorporated, used to be called Possum Snout. So the people, they said, ’Let’s have a Possum Drop on New Year’s Eve.’ We thought it was stupid but you just never seen such hollering.
JJ: They start cheering and carrying on.
BJ: Yeah. And they’ll knock you down to get over there and get a picture of Spencer.
JJ: People give you more credit for Spencer than anything else.
BJ: Well, let me tell you; a man or a woman is blessed if they can go to work every morning and enjoy it. And I’m just really happy that I’ve had a partner all of these years that I wouldn’t trade for anybody.
JJ: Thank you. Life has not been dull with you, Bud.
BJ: Well I know that, but when you got in the car that night, you should have known.
JJ: I know I did. That should have been my first clue as to what my life was going to be like.
BJ: Thank you, Jackie, and I love you.
JJ: I love you most.
HOST: That was Jackie and Bud Jones at StoryCorps in Tallapoosa, Georgia. Since the possum drop began in the late 1990s… it’s grown from about forty attendees to over seven thousand… That’s more than twice the population of the town itself.
That’s all we’ve got for you this week…
This episode was produced by Jud Esty-Kendall and Kelly Moffitt. Our production assistant is Eleanor Vassili. Sylvie Lubow is our script writer. Jarrett Floyd is our technical director. Our intern is Zahra Crim. And thanks to StoryCorps facilitator Brenda Ford.
For the StoryCorps podcast, I’m Jasmyn Morris. Happy New Year!