BARBWIRE by Barb Lumley

Barb Lumley’s weekly column!


     This week on February 2nd there will be a celebration of Groundhog Day in several areas.  The purpose is to gain a prediction for the coming weather.  If it is a clear day and the groundhog sees his shadow there will be six more weeks of winter weather.  If he doesn’t see his shadow spring will come early.  One of those celebrations will be held in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania where Punxsutawny Phil will come out of hibernation and predict what is going to happen with our weather in the next few weeks.  It all depends on whether or not he sees his shadow!
    It has come to my attention that PETA, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, does not want this holiday celebration to take place.  PETA says that the groundhogs are forced to “perform” in front of large crowds and are exposed to flash photography and to loud noises.  Now, I am not sure what they mean by “perform”.  I have never seen Punxsutawny Phil singing or dancing.  He always just seems to lay there in someone’s arms and look bored by the whole celebration!  As for the flashes and noises, he is a “star” and stars have to expect crowds to gather, cameras to take pictures, and people to cheer!  Phil is a star and he has had to get used to the excitement and adjust to it.  PETA says they are “shy, sensitive animals”, however there is a record of one retaliating and biting the ear of a mayor in Wisconsin during a celebration.
    They also say Phil is denied hibernation and is forced to be on display at the local public library all year long.  But is that so bad?  He only has to work one day a year.  The rest of the year he is well taken care of!  A special burrow is dug for him, he doesn’t have to dig his own.  It has a special “window” so children can view and admire him.  He lives in a warm and clean environment all year long.  He can sleep as much as he wants to anytime he wants to.
    He is fed the foods he likes— celery, lettuce, kale, and carrots.  Those types of foods are why groundhogs choose to make their burrows near your garden!  Bananas and apples are a special treat for him.  Groundhogs have two teeth that never stop growing, so Phil is fed Granola Bars to help wear down those teeth.   He gets his longevity of life from drinking the “elixir of life”, a secret recipe (one of the secret ingredients is milk).  He takes a sip every summer at the Groundhog Picnic and it magically gives him seven more years of life.  His wife, Phyllis, lives with him so he is not lonely.
    Why do they think Phil would be better off free?  How could releasing Phil in the “wilds” possibly make his life better?  He would have to dig his own holes, search for food every day, and hibernate in winter and become skinny.  He would be at the mercy of predators such as coyotes, dogs, hunters with guns who enjoy the sport of shooting groundhogs, irate farmers wanting them shot because of the holes made in their fields that cause wagons to upset or machinery to break, and cars that run over them when they go on the roads!  I am sure there are other groundhogs who would like to trade places with Phil!  The Punxsutawny Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle takes good care of Punxsutawny Phil.  It seems to me that Phil lives a comfortable and happy life.  There are a lot of people in our world who do not live as well! 
    Last summer thirty five (35) groundhogs or more (there were probably some I didn’t see to   count) came to visit me and took up residence under various buildings here on the farm.  There is no doubt in my mind that, as soon as warm weather comes this spring, more will be heading my way.  They will be looking for suitable places to settle, establish their residence and raise a family.  Should PETA or some caring person establish a “rescue shelter” for groundhogs I would be quite willing to allow them to be rescued!  The hard part will be catching them!  The last time I caught one in a trap, it enjoyed the bait and then proceeded to tear my Chinese manufactured animal trap apart and escaped!   It had taken me days to just get it to go into the trap!  We might have to hire a “groundhog wrangler”!
    While I do not condone the mistreatment of animals, I do feel that there are more urgent and important issues in our country in need of attention and solutions than the treatment of a groundhog, who will or will not see his shadow and predict our weather.  By the time you read this Punxsutawny Phil will have given his prediction and his caretakers and friends will have celebrated the holiday.  You will know whether to keep the Carhartt’s handy or check the spring catalog for some new shorts!                                                                                                                                            

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