Something fishy about Pennsylvania's groundhog

Friday, February 10, 2012

I hope you were pleased that the groundhog saw its shadow last week.

According to some, if it's sunny on Groundhog Day there will be six more weeks of winter.

I bet most of you agree that six more weeks of the winter we've been having would be a good thing.

Now I'd like to appeal to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to check out that poor groundhog in Pennsylvania that gets so much attention every year.

Look at those photographs. Do you see a groundhog being held by a man wearing a top hat?

It's bad enough that any animal would have be seen in the company of such a questionable character. But it's downright inhumane what the groundhog must be going through to sit still for a photo in the first place.

I grew up with groundhogs. Real groundhogs. Diggers of large holes in the fields up and down Killough Valley in the Ozarks over yonder. Holes that snare the wheels of expensive farm equipment, sometimes causing expensive damage.

I grew up in a household with an arsenal tucked away in the tiny closet in my folks' bedroom. It was the same closet where my folks kept their clothes and shoes and hats. On the floor of the closet propped against the walls were rifles used for a variety of game. Some were for rabbits, others were for squirrels, others were for crows. A couple were for deer.

And then there was the groundhog rifle. The one with the scope. The one that was accurate for shooting a wily groundhog 300 yards away as it popped up out of one of its many burrows.

The only way to shoot a varmint like a groundhog is from a considerable distance. Groundhogs are particularly wary of its worst predators: human beings. I've seen, through the rifle's scope, a groundhog poke its head up from a hole only to instantly pop back down after spotting me, half hidden three football fields away, pointing a gun in its direction.

So when I see the photos taken on Groundhog Day of a groundhog resting on the arm of a human being wearing a top hat, I know something's fishy. That groundhog is not there by choice. And the only reason it is sitting still is because ... what? It's too doped up with drugs to move?

As much as I, like most farmers I know, detest groundhogs, I've got to say I feel sorry for what's-his-name Phil.

Sporting organizations are stripping prizes from winners of important athletic events that occurred several years ago because it is now believed drugs were involved.

Why should some town in Pennsylvania hog -- pardon the expression -- all the attention on Groundhog Day because of the obvious misuse of placating chemicals?

Step up, SPCA, and check this out.

But Joe, you might be asking as you slurp the last Cheerios from your bowl, isn't Prozac better for a groundhog than blowing its head off with a high-powered rifle?

The answer depends on whether you're talking to a man in a goofy top hat or a farmer wearing a seed cap. You know what they would each say.

Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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