The Stealthy Groundhog or Musing Marmot
My Groundhog Day
Author's note: This first-person narrative, an abridged version, was written to document my experience of shoveling snow on Groundhog's Day in West Branch, Michigan, and is the impetus for this article.
CLEAR THE WAY!
The infamous Groundhog Day (February 2nd) was overcast all morning. According to legendary folklore, this meant a promise of an early spring.
Within two days, North Michigan experienced eight feet of snowfall! If there’s anything I hate, it’s a broken promise! That no-good groundhog!
One of the rules of the group-home residence is that the driveway and sidewalks bordering the residential property need to kept clear. Staff personnel arrive at eleven o’clock in the morning, so the driveway, at least, needs to be cleared by then in order for the company van to have necessary street access.
Starting at about half-past eight ante meridian Eastern Standard Time, I took the wide, metal snow shovel and began the slow, but sure process of clearing away the snow.
First thrust . . . the snow wasn’t too bad; it was dry, making it light to lift . . . there was just a lot of it!
About thirty shovelfuls later, I had cleared the porch's sidewalk and part of the driveway just in front of the garage.
Having lost count and about a half hour later, I had cleared half the driveway. Good thing I have my mittens on—mittens are warmer than gloves because the circulation to the fingers is better—gloves snuggle the fingers to the point of compromised blood flow and, thus, reduced heat.
Whether one has excellent muscle tone from weight training or rarely exercises and has never shoveled before, it is wise to take one’s time. Even light snow starts to feel heavy after a while. The heart begins to pump harder, and deep breaths become necessary. Cold weather, of course, is not ideal for lung inhalation. So, one must rest between eight or so scoops of snow.
A snow truck greeted me. With a few swipes of the attached snowplow, the front of the driveway was recognizable again. Thank you, sir!
I still had the corner where the sidewalk met the street, though. Because city trucks give no attention to sidewalks, a two-foot bank was created when they cleared the street. One shovelful at a time!
Thrust lift . . . thrust, lift . . . thrust, lift . . . rest and catch the breath.
Sprinkling ice melt was the easy part. Total time to clear the driveway and sidewalks: two hours. Done!
Where do groundhogs (woodchucks) live?
Unique Facts about Groundhogs
- the term "woodchuck" has nothing to do with gnawing wood, but comes from the Algonquian wuchak
- have a curved spine, unlike other mammals in the Sciuridae (squirrel) family
- groundhog burrows may have up to five entrances, two minimum
- keeps a separate place in its burrow as a bathroom
- used in research on hepatitis-B liver cancer
- credited for uncovering archaeological artifacts at the Ufferman Site in Ohio
Author's note: The young narrator in this video states the weight of a groundhog as "up to 15 pounds;" however, where alfalfa is ubiquitous and few predators, fully developed groundhogs have been known to weigh as much as 31 pounds.
Jimmy the Groundhog
Sun Prairie, WI
Smith Lake Jake
General Beauregard Lee
Yellow River Game Ranch (Atlanta, GA)
Petrie Island Pete
In researching YouTube, I found the following video the most informative about the groundhog's behavior. The narrator refers to the groundhog's young as "chucklings." His interpretation of the one chuckling looking for water is probably incorrect, as (according to Wikimedia) these mammals get their hydration from the vegetation they eat, not from drinking water.
Author's note: The intended video does not play in Hub Pages format, but can be viewed on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6nEuI86uWs&t=. Thank you for your understanding.
A Romantically Chucky Ending
I think the following poem by Robert Frost (1874-1963) is a perfect ending for this article. He uses the mammal as a metaphor to explain his own social behavior toward his spouse Elinor.
Author's note: A drumlin is an elongated, glacial drift, most commonly found in New York, Wisconsin, and Canada, which also happen to be in the woodchuck's domain.
The Drumlin Woodchuck
By Robert Frost
One thing has a shelving bank,
Another a rotting plank,
To give it cozier skies
And make up for its lack of size.
My own strategic retreat
Is where two rocks almost meet,
And still more secure and snug,
A two-door burrow I dug.
With those in mind at my back
I can sit forth exposed to attack
As one who shrewdly pretends
That he and the world are friends.
All we who prefer to live
Have a little whistle we give,
And flash, at the least alarm
We dive down under the farm.
We allow some time for guile
And don't come out for a while
Either to eat or drink.
We take occasion to think.
And if after the hunt goes past
And the double-barreled blast
(Like war and pestilence
And the loss of common sense),
If I can with confidence say
That still for another day,
Or even another year,
I will be there for you, my dear,
It will be because, though small
As measured against the All,
I have been so instinctively thorough
About my crevice and burrow. ***
I wish to thank the following site for the words to Robert Frost's poem:
http://marksrichardson.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/robert-elinor-frost1.jpg (Elinor and Robert Frost photo)
If interested in Robert Frost's life, you might enjoy my article Robert Frost, American Poet.