It is the day before Groundhog Day, 2015. The CBC has put out an article that is making the rounds on the internet about the origins of this day in North America, how ‘we’ borrowed it from the Europeans. Some people say it originated with the Scottish, some say German. The fact of the matter is in some places in Europe it is starting to turn to spring-like conditions this time of year, in early February. That is not to say that we haven’t seen an early spring here too, but that is usually not to be expected.
What we can expect on this side of the Atlantic Ocean is a storm on or about Valentine’s Day, and coincidentally, again on another holiday which is sometimes called the St. Patrick’s Day storm. So for me, personally, I don’t much care for the Groundhog Day tradition. Oh it’s cute and folks look like they are having a grand time scaring this poor groundhog out of its tiny fur encased brain. It just never struck me as anything more than blowing off a little winter cabin fever, and in one of my clearer moments I realized that this rodent couldn’t control the weather; and to think of all those years wasted, wishing for a cloudy day on February 02.
“So, did the little guy see his shadow?”
“Yeah, it was sunny all day here, man.”
“CRAP! Six more weeks of winter.”
And then you’d mope around for the next month and miss all the sunny days.
“Hey look. It’s a sunny today, and not snowing.”
“Yeah, but don’t be fooled. It’s only been two weeks since that little &%@$ saw his shadow.”
So one day I just woke up and didn’t buy into the whole business. I know people will be shocked that anyone could say such a thing. It’s a tradition for crying out loud. How can you not like Groundhog Day? I get that. Have your day, torture that poor critter again and don’t ever let him go, because you’re gonna need him next year.
I’ll tell you what I told my son when I caught him shooting at the birds with his pellet rifle. I told him that the rifle was only for target practice, on non living targets. I also told him it was okay to kill an animal if he was hungry and needed to eat, but that it was wrong to tease an animal or to just shoot it to kill something, as if its life meant no more than the paper on his target. He said he understood, and I told him if he killed an animal just for fun, he would have to eat it, to show it respect and thanks. I don’t think a half hour had passed when I heard him around the side of the house. I was grilling supper on the back deck when he came slowly up the steps, snivelling, and hiccupping. When I asked him what was the matter he reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a pathetic wad of fur. He burst out crying, and I began to piece together the story between broken sobs.
He had been aiming at the branch, and the chipmunk had sort of run into the pellet, and he was very sorry. The kid was breaking my heart. Of course I was going to set an example, so I told him to go inside and clean his supper. Now before you call the child welfare folks, this was not going to happen. We had every intention of stopping the boy. That’s when the meat burst into flames on the barbecue. My wife ran to get the spray bottle of water, while I tried to move the grill away from the wooden railing. We got the crisis under control just in time for our son to announce from behind us, that he was ready to cook his supper now. I couldn’t believe it. He skinned that rodent better then Davey Crocket could have at his age. I almost burst out into gales of laughter but an icy stare from the Missus put that desire right out with one punch.
We came clean and told him he didn’t have to eat his kill, but we hoped he had learned a lesson. He said he was going to cook the little fella up anyway to show some respect.
It’s funny how the smoke from that darn barbeque got into my eyes at that exact moment. That night we all had a taste of grilled rodent. It was almost better than the burnt mess that everyone was very good about saying how tasty it was, and how we should have blackened chicken more often.
For some reason looking at the picture on the news site, of last year’s Wiarton Willie Festival in the now well known town, made me sad, and it made me think of that time so long ago. I know the actual animal they use is in a heck of a lot better place than his cousins, or is it? Don’t worry about me. I’m also starting to think it’s a shame to kill a perfectly good healthy tree so we can put gifts under it, and then throw it away two weeks later, but that’s a story for later on this year.
Thanks for reading, and please don’t call me names.