As most of you know, this coming Tuesday is Groundhog Day. It is the annual event where we all look to the groundhog to tell us if winter is about to end. Most people hope the groundhog does not see its shadow. If it does, it dives back down into its burrow, and we can expect another six weeks of winter.
But this year is going to be different. The groundhog that made Punxsutawney famous has sold out. I couldn’t believe it when I read in the newspaper recently that starting this year, Punxsutawney Phil will text his prediction. What is this world coming to?
As you might expect, however, all this hype with Punxsutawney Phil and his texting may not be lost on North Dakota groundhogs. North Dakota groundhogs maintain a strong connection with nature and are much less likely to sell out to technology.
We have had a groundhog take up residence near our home over the past couple years. I could usually only get a quick glimpse of him before he disappeared into the nearest hiding place. He seemed to have a personality that could be described as quite personable but yet very timid: sort of like a mix of Burl Ives and the Cowardly Lion.
At any rate, I managed to make his acquaintance and gain his confidence. His name is Metigoshe Mike, and he likes the attention groundhogs get on Groundhog Day, but would like to see the shadow part changed. He said that the whole issue of a groundhog coming out of its burrow, seeing its shadow, and diving back down the hole is a reference to groundhogs being so afraid of the world that they are even afraid of our own shadow. He said the whole thing started long ago in Germany with something called Candlemas Day.
Mike prefers being called a woodchuck, and not a groundhog. He admits to being a bit overweight, but reminded me that woodchucks need to put on a considerable amount of fat to get through these northern winters. He also thinks the term groundhog is an uncomplimentary comparison of their walk and run to that of a pig.
According to Mike, the term woodchuck is not a reference to either wood or a chuck. It is a corruption of their old Algonquin name; “wuchuk.”
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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