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The Stealthy Groundhog or Musing Marmot

Updated on July 17, 2016
A standing groundhog (woodchuck) near the Mississippi River of Minneapolis, MN. The alert mammal will whistle to warn others of its kind of approaching danger.
A standing groundhog (woodchuck) near the Mississippi River of Minneapolis, MN. The alert mammal will whistle to warn others of its kind of approaching danger. | Source

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 hub 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!

While my snowbank wasn't as high as this Duluth one of 2007, I felt as though it was after extensive shoveling.
While my snowbank wasn't as high as this Duluth one of 2007, I felt as though it was after extensive shoveling. | Source

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?

The groundhog, woodchuck, or marmot is unique to North America and has quite a range.
The groundhog, woodchuck, or marmot is unique to North America and has quite a range. | Source

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.

Famous Groundhogs

Name
Location
Wiarton Willie
Wiarton, Ontario
Punxsutawney Phil
Punxsutawney, PA
Jimmy the Groundhog
Sun Prairie, WI
Smith Lake Jake
Graysville, AL
General Beauregard Lee
Yellow River Game Ranch (Atlanta, GA)
Petrie Island Pete
Ottawa, Canada
In addition to the above critters, there is the classic fantasy movie GROUNDHOG DAY (1993), based on a story by Danny Rubin,.directed by Harold Ramis, and starring Bill Murray.

Groundhog Behavior

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 hub 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.

 . . . where two rocks almost meet  . . .
. . . where two rocks almost meet . . .


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. ***

Elinor Miriam White and Robert Frost (1895) - - "I will be there for you, my dear "
Elinor Miriam White and Robert Frost (1895) - - "I will be there for you, my dear "

Acknowledgment

I wish to thank the following site for the words to Robert Frost's poem:

https://sites.google.com/site/donslibrary/Home/united-states-fiction/robert-frost/a-further-range/a-drumlin-woodchuck

-and-

Pamela Ruch of www.helpinggardenersgrow.com and http://artofnaturejournaling.com/ (photo of rocks)

http://marksrichardson.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/robert-elinor-frost1.jpg (Elinor and Robert Frost photo)


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    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 2 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Groundhog Day is certainly a curious day, peachpurple, even to me after writing this hub article. Thanks for the visit!

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i have always been curious what groundhog day is all about. Thanks for writing this hub

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 2 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      When I eventually move to Boulder, Colorado, Writer, I'll see if I can find any of those little varmints! If I come across a different map, I certainly will update. Thanks for reading and the heads up!

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 2 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      I'm glad I found this article, just in time for Groundhog's Day. There certainly is a lot of interest in this little animal. I think that Wikipedia map is wrong, though, because I've heard that they do live in Colorado.

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 2 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you, Bdegiulio. I had fun writing this.

      Blessings!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      How clever and creative Marie. What an interesting creature the groundhog turned out to be. Who knew they have a separate underground bathroom? Luckily I don't have them in my garden, just chipmunks. Great job, thoroughly enjoyed this hub.

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 2 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you for the visit and comment, David. Yes, nature certainly has a diverse expression of life, from amoebas to us! This burrowing animal, or any burrowing animal, plays havoc with gardens. When I was community gardening in Torrance, California, I paid to have a fellow gardener trap an occasional gopher for me so my vegetables wouldn't get ruined by the little critter.

      I'm honored by your visit. Blessings!

    • David Stone profile image

      David Stone 2 years ago from New York City

      Interesting. I hadn't thought about woodchucks much since they were the terror of my uncle's farm where I worked as a boy. Isn't it interesting how evolution comes up with such a motley collection, so much diversity?

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you for your kind comment, Billy.

      I like creative writing, for sure. If you haven't read my article on Pit bulls, you might enjoy that as well. I wrote a sonnet in that one.

      Have a great day, and a visit for a read at any time is always appreciated. Blessings!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm not sure how I missed this, Marie, but I'm here now. Better late than never I hope. What a very creative article. You have a little something here for everyone, from personal experience to animal facts to poetry, and all written well. I always appreciate an article that shares personal experience and manages to seamlessly interweave it into the greater story...and you did that here.

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      So nice of you to visit, Meg. I was aware that there were drumlins in Ireland, but I chose not to mention that fact because, exactly as you have said, there are no groundhogs there. I'm sure the drumlins there must be awe inspiring.

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 3 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Lovely hub. Enjoyed that. While we don't have woodchucks in Northern Ireland, we do have drumlins, especially in County Down and some of the islands in Strangford Lough are drowned drumlins!

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you, Jodah, for the read and comment. Yes, the woodchuck and groundhog are one and the same--one animal with several different common names.

      I, too, love Frost's poem. As a poet, he had the ability to take everyday things and make them profound. No wonder he was considered "America's Best-Loved Poet."

      @Eiddwen, I can't express well enough my appreciation of the vote and share. Thank you!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      A very interesting and well informed hub Marie. Voted up and shared.

      Eddy.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very interesting hub Marie, I didn't know a lot about 'Groundhog Day' other than the movie by that name starring Bill Murray. Are woodchucks and groundhogs the same animal? Love the Robert Frost poem too.

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Nope--a warning didn't appear there, either. I provided a no-follow link instead that seems to work fine. I see the movie is priced at $2.99, so I didn't bother including a link for that. There was one video on Vimeo for Petrie Island Pete coming out of hibernation. (I'll add him to the table of famous groundhogs.) Thank you for your help!

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 3 years ago

      I left out the word "page", I meant to say edit page.

      Kevin

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thanks for the tip, Examiner. I wondered how that would work out, as the video did say it was copyrighted. There are plenty of videos. I'll just supply a link or two for YouTube (the movie is there, too). There was no warning on the Account Page.

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 3 years ago

      Hi Marie, that was interesting. It was both fictional and very detailed, you did a good job on it. I voted it up and shared it.

      Kevin

      The only thing about it that you may want to know is that your 2nd video under "Groundhog Behavior" says watch on YouTube. You may have a warning on your edit.

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you for the read and comment, Will. I think if folks had to kill everything they ate, there'd be a lot less meat consumption in the good ol' U.S.A.--and probably a lot better health, too.

      Another interesting thing about the groundhog, or woodchuck, is that the Indians apparently used the critter's fur for moccasins. I guess the animal has a tough skin.

      My research indicated that they are the least omnivorous of the squirrel group--they love their plants. Tomatoes seem to be a favorite.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Many years ago, when I was just a teen, my grandmother assigned me the task of assassinating the woodchuck who was raiding her garden, which was not an easy task. Woodchucks are extremely cautious, so it took me weeks to finally bag him. To my utter astonishment, my grandmother then commanded that I clean and dress my victim so she could cook him. She was from New England, and wasted nothing. From then on, woodchucks had nothing to fear from me.

      BTW, woodchucks taste like roast beef.

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      My son-in-law claims that his grandmother, aunt, and brother were all born on Groundhog's Day, February 2nd. That same brother also happened to get stuck once in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania!