February 8, 2009
A Belated Groundhog Day Tale
Only twice in my life have I ever seen a groundhog. We have them where I live, but you never see them. NEVER. I have lived here most of my life, I have been over hill and over dale, across the river and through the woods all the way to grandmother's house. No groundhogs anywhere.
Both times I've seen them I didn't recognize them. Always it is my mother that identifies them. Once was from a description. The second time she was with me when I saw it and it's her that this story is about.
We were on a drive into the countryside. Before long we came to a bridge that crosses a large creek that feeds into the lake that is a tourist attraction in our area.
(As an interesting side note, this is the same creek next to which I learned to drive a standard transmission truck -- by driving through a field with my crazy friend Ruth Ann. Also the same creek we swam in and I ended up with something that looked like a leech stuck to my foot. Also the same weekend that Ruth Ann's grandmother kept telling me how much I looked like her dead daughter.)
Anyway, back to the bridge we were about to cross...
Skulking across the bridge and low to the ground was a wriggling mass of brown fur that looked the same on the front end as the back end. The only way I could tell which was the front was because of the way it was moving. Unless animals can moonwalk. I doubt it. I slowed the car.
"What is that," I asked.
"Look at that!" My mother has this habit of pointing things out in a way that sounds like she is taking credit for the very existence of the object in question. "Do you SEE it??"
"Uh, yeah... what is it? Is that a beaver?"
"No, it's a groundhog," she states calmly. Then suddenly as if she were attacked by a sudden spasm of Tourette Syndrome she starts yelling, "PUNXSUTAWNEY PHIL WAS WRONG! HE WAS WRONG! SPRING IS COMING! SPRING IS HERE!"
When she yelled, my arms jerked and we wobbled for a minute across both lanes of roadway and Lakeshore Larry the brave Ozark groundhog turned his head lazily toward us as if he were just waking up from a nice dream into some terrible nightmare. He froze for an instant, then turned back and waddled wetly off in the direction he originally came from.
For another minute we discussed why Larry would have climbed the huge hill to come up across the bridge instead of just following along the creek bed. We talked about the pros and cons of both methods of travel as if Larry might have some slight iota of reasoning ability. These are the conversations I always end up having with my mother, conversations that sound like we're two people having an unauthorized day outing from some "special care" institution.
But indeed this weekend we are having 60 and 70 degree weather. So, you heard it here first... Punxsutawney Phil is wrong and Lakeshore Larry is right. Spring is coming! Spring is here!