A recurring theme emerged in the public information/outreach section of our office in 2020; that being the 1993 movie, “Groundhog Day.”
With staff teleworking from home, the time continuum seemed to bend, and days blended into one another. In case you somehow missed catching the movie at a cinema or its numerous re-runs on television, here’s the premise: actor Bill Murray portrays a gruff, indifferent weatherman that half-heartedly covers the annual Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. He gets trapped in a time loop, which renders Murray reliving Groundhog Day … every day.
Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks or whistle pigs (for the distinctive whistle they make when alarmed) belong to the giant squirrel or marmot family. These portly rodents can tip the scales at as much as 15 pounds, yet display quickness and athleticism when diving into their burrows or climbing a fence post for a better vantage point. Mostly vegetarian, a groundhog consumes as much as one pound of plant material daily as they endeavor to pack on the pounds for a long winter’s nap (hibernation). Does packing on the pounds sound familiar to you after the year 2020? Yes, every day was indeed Groundhog Day to most folks last year, as we heartily noshed with the refrigerator so nearby to our work-from-home offices.
Many states lay claim to their own version of Pennsylvania’s ambassador, Punxsutawney Phil, including Ohio. Buckeye Chuck, our Ohio arbiter of whether spring will come early or the winter will linger six weeks longer – based upon whether the giant rodent encounters said shadow – “emerged” in the 1970s in Marion County. In 1979, the Ohio General Assembly took upon the important legislative task of designating Buckeye Chuck as the official state groundhog.
Another popular movie last century was “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” in which Indiana Jones, a swash-buckling, archeology professor, unearths antiquities with great powers. Think of woodchucks as the “Indiana Jones” of the animal world. Their prodigious burrowing habits have led to important archeological discoveries due to artifacts being unearthed and scattered around their burrows. The Ufferman Site, a National Register of Historic Places property located north of the city of Delaware near Delaware Lake, contains Cole culture remains. The site is known to contain significant artifacts – not due to archaeological investigations conducted, but due to the unearthing of pottery shards, animal and human bone fragments, and crude tools by groundhogs!
As Feb. 2 nears, make plans to celebrate Groundhog Day and take solace in the fact that we are now halfway between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. Bake some groundhog-shaped sugar cookies, make groundhog shadow puppets, take a hike and look for woodchuck holes, watch the namesake movie or virtual Groundhog Day events – hey, any excuse for a celebration in these challenging times. And as a reminder, now is the time to shop our annual tree sale at https://soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us/.
Kim Marshall is the communication specialist for the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to www.soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us.