Let me start by saying, I love animals. I actively daydream about hanging out with miniature donkeys. I went to a wolf sanctuary for my 30th birthday. When recently asked in a job interview what I considered my greatest weakness to be I answered, “Any YouTube clip of an unlikely animal friendship can reduce me to tears in under a minute.” It may not have been the answer they were looking for but nonetheless proves my point.
That being said, I’m here to tell you the dangerous truth about groundhogs. You see, Groundhog day perpetuates an image in our culture of a gentle and harmless creature that is simply not true. Groundhogs, aka woodchucks, aka furry little demons, are sinister, and I refuse to celebrate them in any way.
It was one of those late spring days in Aroostook County that felt cold in the morning, but was tee shirt weather by noontime. I was experiencing one of my limited 10 year old freedoms by riding my bike up and down the dirt roads that connected the farmhouse to the family cabin on the pond. Most of the road followed the edge of a potato field, but behind my great grandmother’s house the road forked. To the left was a grassier road that took you around towards the dam and then up behind the cabin. You had one short hill to get up and then a pretty leisurely ride. The right took you to a steep hill. “Stand on your pedals and give it all you got” kind of steep. This fateful day I took what I thought would be the easier road. I was wrong.
As I turned left, singing to myself as a carefree ten year old girl does, I saw a round and brown figure lumber out of the bushes onto my path about 20 feet ahead. Then the figure turned towards me, it stood upright on two legs with its hand like paws clasped around its fat belly. Its eyes gleamed with wild anger.
Not one to back down, I yelled and clapped my hands at it to shoo it away. It responded in kind, lunging forward a few feet towards me and making a growling sound. I walked my bike back a few steps while my heart began to race. This thing wasn’t moving. So, in an effort to show this rodent bully who the boss was around here, I decided to roll my bike toward it. I figured that would have to scare it off. I pushed my twelve speed with all my might towards my opponent. It dramatically crashed just five or so feet in front of the beast. To my shock it did not run in fear. Instead, with the rage of a thousand suns burning in its eyes the monster jumped onto the front tire of my bike. There it bit down onto the rubber while looking straight at me, as if to say “YOU!”
At this point I am told I turned around, ran, and screamed the entire way up the “stand on your pedals and give it all you got” steep hill to my family cabin. I have no recollection of this but family members report me “screaming bloody murder.” I do recall seeing my parents through tear stained eyes, red faced, and panting. After they ascertained that I wasn’t physically hurt they attempted to calm me down enough to explain my current state. As I recounted my trauma to them, exactly as I have to you just now, I couldn’t help but notice their expressions begin to crack a little. By the end of the story they were barely keeping it together. They were laughing at me. My parents were laughing at my account of almost dying at the hands of the vicious groundhog.
My parents had been fooled by the groundhog’s wholesome image it seemed. These typically good parents were telling me that groundhogs were harmless. I, their favorite child, had just narrowly escaped an encounter with one. Years later, I am still a family joke and the groundhog is celebrated and looked to for weather predictions every February 2nd.
While their aggressive behavior is left out of the media time and time again, I wanted you my dear readers to know the truth. From my personal experience with just one groundhog when I was 10 years old, I can confidently say to you that despite reports from scientists and specialists alike, groundhogs are not to be trusted. Please, avoid them at all costs. Please stop perpetuating their image as cute and harmless. Please join me in not celebrating Groundhog Day this year and every year.
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