The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

August 5, 2013

Groundhog makes enemies in Ohio

Commentary By Adam Smith

— In a week of strange news items, perhaps the strangest of all was the headline that a prosecutor in Ohio wants Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog, dead.

That’s right, Michael Gmoser wants to see the rodent, which lives in the ground, dead … in the ground. Why? Because Phil’s prediction about an early spring was waaaayyy off.

To add levity to the situation, Phil has been indicted in Ohio. A portion of the indictment reads, “on or about Feb. 2, 2013 … Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that Spring would come early.”

I’m not making any of this up.

Down here in Alabama, hundreds of miles away from the frozen tundra of Ohio, spring hasn’t exactly sprung. It’s still downright cold, and the weather men (and women) are perpetually confused.

“Get into your place of safety. No, wait. Get out the snow shovels. No, hold on. Secure any lawn furniture that may be picked up by 60 mph wind gusts. But before you do, salt your front steps in case ice forms.”

We’re not exactly happy campers either, but we haven’t issued any indictments against the rodent. If we were mad enough, we’d just drive up to Pennsylvania and flex our Second-Amendment right to blow the critter’s head off. Waste a bullet, save the taxpayers the cost of a frivolous trial, right?

Well, that’s not really us either. We prefer to walk outside on a cold March morning and curse any theories about global warming. And of course, Alabamians hate the global warming “theory” all the more because Al Gore is attached to it.

I can’t really hold a grudge against Phil, though. So he got it wrong. It’s probably not the first time, and it won’t be the last.

Maybe this Ohio prosecutor shouldn’t have pinned his hopes and dreams of an early spring on a rodent? That’s my thinking.

It’s sort of like asking a cat to change a flat tire. It may be smart enough to get the wheel off, but it ultimately gets playful and bats all those shiny lug nuts away. Where are you then? Still on the side of the road, that’s where.

National Geographic has a whole Web page devoted to groundhogs, also known as woodchucks. Here are some other facts you may not know about the groundhog:

• They live a feast-or-famine lifestyle

• After the first frost, they retreat to their burrow until spring. During that time, they live off their body fat

• They are the largest members of the squirrel family

• Can eat an entire vegetable garden in a matter of seconds (All right, that’s an exaggeration.)

In all my five minutes of research, however, I did not find any mention of a groundhog holding a degree in meteorology, or having been certified by the American Meteorological Society.

And because of that, I say that Prosecutor Gmoser from Ohio needs to lighten up. Perhaps it’s he who should be indicted for just being an idiot.

— Managing editor and friend to marmots Adam Smith can be reached at