Possums Walked Through the Queen City of the Sand Flats 100 Years Ago
By Dana Goolsby
Grapeland- Almost 100 years ago, thousands of people poured into the little town of Grapeland on morning trains from points along the International and Great Northern and from the surrounding countryside to witness marsupials marching down the street on their way to a BBQ. Approximately 5,000 people came from near and far to see Grapeland’s first Possum Walk.
Possum was a popular meal on an East Texas dinner table in years past. Some might say, the only thing better than possum is more possum. Several weeks prior to the Possum Walk, area hunters and trappers who were members of the Possum Club started collecting marsupials for a bbq feast fit for a festival. Locals and visitors looked on as about 200 possums struck a lively gate down the street, which was lined with poultry wire on both sides. Although some of the possums were said to sulk, the Possum Club kept them moving down the street. Moving pictures were made of the marsupial march in Grapeland, and many photographs were taken for newspapers, according to “Crossroads To Progress.”
After the Possum Walk was over, a parade a mile long came down the street. School children, decorated floats, automobiles and buggies, and four companies of uniformed Woodmen of the World were led down the street by the Palestine Labor Band. The parade ended at the high school, where Jeff Strickland of Palestine delivered a speech to thousands who waited to hear him.
The day was a success with only one slight mishap. According to Grapeland’s “Crossroads To Progress,” George E. Darsey’s large mules were spooked during the parade. The large mules bolted with the float and riders. The float was greatly damaged, however there were no injuries. That night visitors continued to pour into the Queen City of the Sand Flats, where they enjoyed musical entertainment.
The following day was said to pack in thousands more who were attending the big possum bbq. That night at the Cozy Theatre in Grapeland, Barker Tunstall of Crockett entertained visitors with a musical program. In one number that night, Tunstall played the part of a “black-faced comedian” and recited an original poem inspired by the Possum Walk in Grapeland.
Thank the Lord for all He sends us,
That’s the best and wisest plan,
Makes me laugh to think of possums
trottin’ in this Grapeland sand,
Poor ol’ possum, he was ignorant,
Didn’t seem to understand
Why he was a-bein’ punished, trottin in
That Grapeland sand.
But you bet they had to do it, and I’ll tell
You it was grand,
Just come down that road a-grinning’;
Trottin through that Grapeland sand.
Next then came dem sweet potatoes,
They raise them to beat the band,
You can’t beat them on potatoes, raised
Up there in Grapeland sand.
Let’s be thankful we are living, let our
Troubles be forgotten,
When you’re blue and discontented,
Think of Grapeland’s possum trottin’.
Possums no longer parade down the streets of Grapeland on their way to become a bbq plate dinner. The Possum Walk and festivities were later replaced by the Peanut Festival.