Column: Coming to terms with groundhogs

Or, how this once groundhog-basher has come to terms with the little weather rodent

By Mike McGann, Editor,

A groundhog. Typically, they're lousy at predicting the weather and selling lottery tickets.

People get really touchy when it comes to groundhogs.

As you may have read, Puxtawney Phil didn’t see his shadow this morning and we’re looking at six more weeks of winter. Fine with me, if Winter is a lot like Tuesday — so warm and sunny that I put the top down on the car, cruising between appointments.

Forget that the computer modeling shows that it’s likely that we’re looking at a warmer than usual weather pattern over the next six weeks and to be honest, and Phil’s lame 39% accuracy rating (flipping a coin would be more accurate — or using the weather rock — or John Bolaris’ little black book).

To say I’m not a big groundhog fan, is to minimize my feelings.

I have a complicated history when it comes to groundhogs, myself.

Back in another time and place, in my farewell column for a daily newspaper in New Jersey (I didn’t know it would be a farewell when I wrote it, but funny how things work in the publishing business), I suggested that Phil was a “meteorologically-challenged would-be roadkill” and should be ignored and then in classic Garden-State style, riffed on making fun of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvanians and the like.

This, of course roused the both the animal rights folks who have no sense of humor (but then if you wore shoes made out of cardboard and plastic, you probably wouldn’t find very much funny, either) and people defending Pennsylvania and old Phil, as if I was going to a launch a plot to assassinate the mangy old rodent. Then and there, I swore never to write another Groundhog’s Day column — an oath that survived these 18 years (which undoubtedly, many of you wish had continued).

Of course, fate being fate, within a year of that column begin published, I found myself moving to the Delaware Valley, into the belly of the beast as it were, getting a closer look at the groundhog cult, up close and personal. Worse, this led to exposure to Gus, allegedly the “second-most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania.”

Gus is more annoying than most of the elected officials in the state (despite his resemblance to Ed Rendell, although Gus does have less back hair and don’t ask how I know this), which is saying something. To be honest, I’d promise to buy a lottery ticket every week for year if in one final commercial we could all virtually win the lottery and see an Acme safe fall from the sky and crush him.

Moving to southern Chester County has enhanced my relationship with groundhogs, though. For many years, a groundhog lived happily under my back deck, although recent and frequent visits by neighboring cats seem to have prompted him to move elsewhere.

And so while, I can’t take Phil’s predictions seriously (or that guy in the hat, who seems to ready to taser poor old Phil into behaving), I can say I’ve reached the ability to live in peaceful coexistence with groundhogs.

Except Gus, of course.

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