Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, February 2, 2020

GROUNDHOG THOUGHTS AND FACTS


  • Groundhogs are known by many names:  Woodchuck, chuck, wood-shock, ground pig, whistlepig, whistler, thickwood badger, Canada marmor, monax, moonack, weenusk, red monk, siffleux, and Phil -- this last being popular in Pennsylvania.
  • They can live up to six years in the wild, with the average being two or three years.  In captivity they can live up to fourteen years.  When I was a kid these numbers were much less because of Polly.  Polly was our dog, half Newfoundland and half St. Bernard, a sweet gentle dog but hell on woodchucks.  (I grew up on a New England farm so, yes, they were called woodchucks).  Polly loved everyone and everything except for woodchucks.  Three, four, maybe five times a years, we would get up to find woodchuck innards scattered throughout our back yard.  Local farmers praised Polly because of her prowess with woodchucks.  (Polly's full name was Polly Sweetie-Pie Puppy-Dog House; my sister Linda was three-years-old when she named her so you can stop smirking.)
  • A woodchuck has nothing to do with wood or chucks. entymologically speaking.  The namme came from the Algonquin (probably) word for the critter, wuchak.  Nonetheless a young groundhog is called a chuck, and the tongue-twister about a woodchuck chucking wood remains popular.
  • We all know that if a groundhog sees it's shadow on Groundhog Day, there will be six more weeks of winter.  We also all know that this is complete bull-tikky.  The superstition seems to have arose from the Pennsylvania Dutch, and was imported from the German-speaking countries where it was a badger, not a groundhog, that did the predicting.  This is actually a variant of the folklore that clear weather on Candlemas indicates a long winter.  The first mention of Groundhog Day comes from a diary entry from February 2, 1840 from Morgantown, Pennsylvania, where a German enclave was situated among the Pennsylvania Dutch.  In 1886, the Punxsutawney Spirit made the first printed reference to Groundhog Day and, in the following year, Groundhog Day became "official" as some residents made a trip to Gobbler's Knob to consult the rodent; the city editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit, Clymer Freas, is credited with inventing the holiday.  Reportedly, the tradition spread from Punxsutawney throughout the country.  Mr. Freas has a lot to answer for.
  • PETA is opposed to the annual tradition in Punxsutawney.
  • As mentioned above, the groundhog  (marmota monax) is a rodent, a member of the family Sciuridie, which covers large ground squirrels, or marmots.  A groundhog's diet is mainly vegetation, including agricultural crops -- which is why farmers really loved Polly.  They can also eat insects, slugs, and small animals, including baby birds.
  • In this 1930 Walt Disney Silly symphony cartoon, "Winter," the groundhog appears at about 5:20 in the film to make his prediction.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccCklnLU48I
  • Sometimes Punxsutawney Phil really goofs and one time his wrong prediction led to legal charges against Phil.  The case was eventually dropped.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxZSK6Sfgus
  • And in Summertime," a 1935 Ub Iwerks cartoon, Old Man Winter tricks the groundhog in thinking he saw his shadow.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WG2lQhtS7xg
  • The groundhog is also celebrated in music.  Here are The Dillards:     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffD8sZEQ69w     And the Watson Family:     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbxoNcwi0AY
  • And for those not watching the Superbowl today, you may want to spend your time drawing a groundhog.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpsKAHaU0fk
By the way, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow this morning.  Happy spring!

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