The Ellie Mae Clampett of these here hills

Published 9:41 pm Saturday, June 3, 2023

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Ellie Mae Clampett may have had an assortment of wildlife she babied but that fictional character of the Beverly Hillbillies fame has nothing on the real-life Nikki Pursifull. Brent, her husband says that in the beginning, he was just along for the ride. These days, however, let anyone tell Brent “that’s just a critter” and watch Papa Pursifull become the daddy he is.

Brent recalls the night Miss Annie the Goat made her entrance into their lives.

“Nikki went to church and came home with a newborn goat. I remember she hits the door with a clothes basket and a bag of KFC. I look in this basket and there’s a baby goat.”

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The mother goat, Brent says, had died along with the other two newborns, leaving Annie the lone survivor.

“She got colostrum because, if animals don’t get that first little bit of mother’s milk, they die. So, Nikki slept on the couch with her and fed her every two hours. But, Nikki has a practice of her own – she’s a nurse practitioner.

“The first day or two Annie thrived. But, I thought she would be dead in a matter of a few days and that would be the end of it.”

Nikki continued the regular two-hour nighttime feedings, arise the next morning and take Annie to her parents to care for on her way to her practice. Each evening, Annie would return home and the overnight feedings became the routine.

The goat survived those first critical days and continued to thrive through the next weeks and months.

“This is the part of the story that gets a little sketchy for me,” said Brent. “It’s time to release the goat back to the goat herd, right? I mean, it’s a goat. So, Nikki took the goat back to the people who owned it and it didn’t go well.”

Nikki continues the story.

“Well, I put her out in the field with the goats to try and introduce them. She turned around and ran back to me and was like scratching my legs and wanting me to pick her up.”

Annie is now considered part of the Pursifull family.

“In Annie’s mind, Nikki is her mother,” said Brent. “She feeds her, waters her, she changes her diapers and even takes her into the shower and bathes her. Up until just recently, she even slept in the bed with us.

“Whenever she realizes Nikki isn’t right beside her, she starts screaming and going through the house trying to find her. When Nikki answers her, she’s fine.”

And, the menagerie does not stop with Annie. The family has grown by leaps and bounds – literally, as one stray animal after another is brought into the fold. There are the usual dogs, cats and other so-called ‘family-friendly’ animals. There have been the more exotic ones like the six feet boa constrictor named Mavis, an African Grey bird that went by Pepper and a possum called Poss-Poss.

“I always thought possums were the grossest animal there ever was until she brought home a rescue one. The mother possum got killed on the road and (local veterinarian) Michael Rowland farmed out the baby possum – Nikki’s one of the crazy women who will do stuff like that.

“I love my wife; she is so caring and giving and it makes her feel so good that she’s bringing these animals home. But, they get big. The possum got big pretty dang quick. And, you know possums are nocturnal. We’d be asleep and all of a sudden, you here these little feet. We would get up and she would scurry away.”

The couple says they would take RV trips with Poss-Poss in tow.

“We’d pull out this possum in the middle of the campground and take her for walks on a leash,” said Brent.

The Pursifulls have since become a rescue reserve for a succession of possums that were, for one reason or another, caught alive.

“When you learn about possums, they’re cool as all get-out,” said Brent.

The nocturnal critters can be bitten by venomous snakes and it won’t kill them. They are known to be big tick eaters and are calm, gentle creatures, according to the couple.

Nikki says she has been an animal lover all her life, and the more exotic the better. At the age of seven, she caught a groundhog.

“I grew up in the country so I could go out in the spring and look for baby animals. My Mom was at the hospital giving birth to my little sister. I caught the groundhog, got my Dad’s welding gloves, carried it in and put it in a birdcage in the laundry room. Dad didn’t know anything about it.

“My Mom was up that night feeding my baby sister and I hear her scream ‘Nikki!’ and I knew,” said Nikki.

The groundhog had chewed through the cage and was lose in the living room.

Nikki recalls finding about 20 baby mice in her outdoor playhouse. Naturally, she had to bring them in from the cold, stashing them in a fish tank with a mesh top that she stored in her bedroom closet.

“We were sitting on the couch, and here ran this little mouse, startling my Mom. And, then here came another one. Then, came 20 more in a line and my Mom screamed ‘Nikki!’”

The couple will likely continue adding to the brood for the unforeseeable future while continuing to foster rescue strays. Brent and Nikki agree that rare kind of “unconditional love” is hard to find and a priceless jewel when fortunate enough to do so.