As every grade-schooler knows, if Phil sees his shadow on the appropriately named Groundhog Day, then he scurries back inside and the rest of us can expect six more weeks of chilly weather.
Lesser known is that Punxsutawney Phil has competition. The Associated Press notes that other states have groundhog-prognosticators. West Virginia’s French Creek Freddie, Georgia’s Gen. Beauregard Lee, Ohio’s Buckeye Chuck and New York’s Staten Island Chuck are Phil’s would-be rivals. By the way, none of the other groundhogs saw their shadow on Thursday, meaning either Phil is wrong or that the others were simply on strike against the handlers who gave them such ridiculous names.
According to National Geographic, “The groundhog, or woodchuck, is one of 14 species of marmots. These rodents live a feast-or-famine lifestyle and gorge themselves all summer to build up plentiful reserves of fat.” Good work if you can get it, eh?
Groundhogs can be found across the eastern United States, including Alabama. A small groundhog/woodchuck once took up residence in a drain in the wooded area behind The Star’s offices. We would see him scurrying around in the grass.
For a while, I led a campaign to give him a nickname. My idea was to play off his home’s proximity to journalists and his generic species name. The result: Woodchuck Bernstein, an homage to the Watergate-era reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. It was around that time that old Woodchuck Bernstein stopped showing up. Was it my silly nickname that sent him packing? I’d rather not contemplate it.
The best place for groundhog-spotting locally might be The Hill, the city-owned golf course in east Anniston. An employee confirmed Thursday that at least one groundhog lives under a concrete slab in the middle of the course.
The Hill’s groundhog was nowhere to be seen when I went looking last week. As the tradition goes, he could have seen his shadow, hit the snooze alarm and went back in his cozy hole.
Or perhaps the Hill’s groundhog saw something beside his shadow, and that’s what sent him burrowing back in his hole. Plenty of other disturbing visions could have done the trick:
The groundhog saw news that the city of Anniston passed a 1-cent increase on its sales tax. The shock of seeing a majority of the City Council agree on an important policy probably stunned more than the groundhogs among us.
A raging Republican presidential primary could have done the trick to poor Mr. Groundhog. When the groundhog went into hibernation in October, a full field of Republicans were vying for the presidency. Now, the pack may be down to four major contenders, but the intensity in the campaign is no less fierce.
When Groundhog Day dawned Thursday, college football fans were still debating over which team hauled in the most prized recruits on signing day. Since no big-time college football program has either a woodchuck or a groundhog as a mascot, we can imagine a groundhog yawning and nodding off in the middle of a Roll Tide-War Eagle conversation.
Or perhaps most likely of all, Anniston’s golf course groundhog was worried that too much exposure might lead to being given a silly nickname.
Bob Davis is editor of The Anniston Star. Contact him at 256-235-3540 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at: twitter.com/EditorBobDavis.