At midnight on New Year’s Eve this year, Thom Tillis, the speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives — and a man who is rumored to be eyeing a U.S. Senate seat — found himself standing in the middle of an outdoor stage in a gas station parking lot.
Tillis had decided to ring in the new year in a tiny North Carolina mountain town so far west it might as well be in Tennessee. At midnight Tillis lowered a suspended Plexiglass box as some 2,000 people looked on. Inside this Plexiglass box was a possum, which had been suspended thirty feet above the crowd for the past three hours.
I know what you’re thinking — this is everything that is wrong with rural North Carolina. Nothing but a bunch of uneducated hicks, impoverished people in an impoverished area with no aspirations beyond applying for a new hunting license. All in all, an embarrassment.
But you’re wrong. And what’s more, you’re missing the point. Actually the Possum Drop illustrates great positive truths about rural North Carolina.
Truth No. One: rural North Carolinians have remarkable self-awareness. Everyone gathered in Brasstown knew it was ridiculous; the absurdity of it all was what made it fun. No one in Brasstown that night thought what they were experiencing was high culture. They just have no interest in pretending to act like they’re something they’re not.