Every state in the United States has a special icon that can go so far as to become bigger than the city and sometimes the state itself.
Morgantown W.Va., has Don Knots, Punxsutawney has the groundhog Phil. Look around Washington and you will find statues of George Washington.
Also, up town is Washington and Jefferson College with statues of the same. Some of those that became larger than life are sport heroes. Back in my day, it was Ralph Kiner and Roberto Clemente. Also, back in my day would be Pittsburgh’s own diminutive sports’ announcer Myron Cope.
Why Cope in my column you might ask? Well do you remember at the start of his radio program, he would be visited by a little bird? The bird would then tell Cope a rumor and he would announce it in his show.
Well, I also have a little birdie who relayed a rumor this week pertaining to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. My little bird says the commission is considering having a special turkey season and were considering making the shotgun/rifle law uniform across the state. Double Yoi.
Speaking of groundhog Phil, I was snoozing in my chair like I do a lot these days when I had a crazy dream. I was in my brown lazy boy having a conversation with someone in a dark place.
As dreams go, it was one of those crazy ones where you think it’s real. I dreamed I was in a ground hogs den underground. I was conversing with Mr. Groundhog down in his warm den.
Now most of my readers know I have a fondness for the groundhog, having hunted them all my adult life and closely studied the fat little critters. I’ve written about them before but since Groundhog Day is just about upon us, I thought it was a sign it is time to bring him up again.
Groundhogs are a type of rodent known as a marmot. Marmots are closely related to squirrels. They can be found all over North America. There are even some groundhogs found in Canada and Alaska. An interesting side note is Groundhog Day came from the Germanic tradition of Candlemas Day, which was a Christian Feast Day. On Candlemas, if it was sunny a hedgehog or a badger predicted a longer winter in Europe. When Europeans came here there weren’t any hedge hogs but rolly, fat groundhogs aplenty. And that’s how groundhog Phil became the prophet of winter and an icon.
Groundhogs are called many names whistle-pigs, land beavers and woodchuck. The term woodchuck doesn’t have anything to do with chopping wood but is thought to be a Native American word for the animal “wuchak.” A groundhog’s burrow can be eight to 66 feet long, which explains how I fit in there in my dream. They have multiple exits and rooms in their expansive home, including a top summer house and a bathroom.
These burrows are what makes them a pest to poor farmers whose tractors fall into their giant burrows, causing all sorts of problems. Which is when the farmer calls me up to come and hunt them. Which is why waking up from my dream state, I immediately went to the gun safe to pull out my groundhog rifle and clean it up. That’s when it hit me. The other interesting groundhog fact. Groundhogs do hibernate. The lucky hogs are true hibernators. They go into a dormant state, in which their body temperature and heart rate fall dramatically. This occurs in late fall and continues until spring. They do not sleep the whole winter but go through bouts of this hibernation waking for a few days before dozing back off.
In late winter early spring, the male groundhog goes out in search of romance. They house call female groundhogs living in their territory as early as February. Groundhogs tend to be loners otherwise.
Well, that is about all my Groundhog Day facts that I have for you today. I am going back to sleep. Hopefully, it will be spring soon.