18

Groundhogs of the World Unite!

The opinions presented in this article are strictly those of the author. The do not reflect the position of The Cheeseland Times or its editorial staff. Groundhog Day was celebrated on February 2.

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Did you think that because they gave us a special day that the humans think we are special? You’re wrong.

Humans don’t exchange gifts on Groundhog Day. They don’t have cute cards for Groundhog Day. They don’t say “Happy Groundhog Day!” to each other. If you have been living underground, the entire point of Groundhog Day is to pull a member of several of our communities from their nice, warm beds to tell the humans how soon winter is going to end.

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They’ll tell you that the groundhog emerges from his burrow on February 2. Let me give you a clue humans. We go into true hibernation (low body temperature, slow breathing and heart rate, and low metabolic rate). We sleep from October until March or April in the northern places where you want to see us. We do not wake up on February 2 so we can tell you how much longer you will have to scrape off your car.

How on earth would we know when winter is going to end? Do they think the information comes from some otherworldly spirit with special knowledge? Do they think we inherit it with our other attributes? No. They think we can tell because seeing our shadow on the morning of February 2 has some special meaning.

They refer to it as “the groundhog seeing his shadow.” Listen up, humans. When you wake us up and pull us into the cold upper world, we don’t see anything. We are blinking, trying to wake up. The sun is in our eyes. The reason we look grumpy is because we are grumpy. You would be too if someone did it to you.

Image result for groundhog burrow in winter

The whole thing really irritates the female groundhogs. Do the humans think they always grab a male? No. They can tell the difference. They could change their stupid saying to “the groundhog seeing its shadow.” Get out of the 20th century humans.

They hold us up under the arms and show us off like some kind of prize. Do they think that’s comfortable? They’re lucky we’re not carnivores. We have to pose for pictures and video. Then they throw us back down our holes and expect us to go back to sleep. After they’ve woken up the entire family.

Image result for groundhog burrow in winter

We are more than furry shadow-makers. Let me give you a few facts about groundhogs.

We are part of the squirrel family. In fact, we are the largest member of the squirrel family. We are technically marmots. We are the big, friendly branch of the family. But not when we are woken from a deep slumber.

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We mainly eat plants. Clover is especially yummy. We also eat alfalfa and dandelions. Occasionally a slug or a snail is a nice treat. Nuts offer variety. If you’ll notice, humans, you consider several of those things pests. Do you celebrate our contributions to containing those populations? No. You want to see our shadow. You know, you have shadows of your own.

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As a proud member of the groundhog community, I’ll tell them when winter is going to end. Winter ends on the vernal equinox. That’s when there are as many hours of sunlight as there are dark because the sun is directly over the equator. This year that is on March 20th.

In the meantime: leave us alone!

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Gregory Groundhog

You may reach me at gghog@info.ghog or follow me on Twitter @gghog

 

(All pictures courtesy of Google Images)

 

6

There’s No Place Like Home

 

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Mr. Groundhog was getting ready to build his den for the winter. It had been a warm autumn but cold weather was predicted.

Mr. G: Dear, would you prefer moss or dry leaves to sleep on this winter?

Mrs. G: Sorry, I wasn’t listening. What did you ask?

Mr. G: What type of bedding do you want in the winter den?

Image result for groundhog winter den

Mrs. G: We don’t need a winter den.

Mr. G: Of course we need a den. If we don’t have one, we’ll freeze to death.

Mrs. G: Don’t you remember? We’re traveling this winter.

Mr. G: We’re groundhogs. We sleep all winter.

Mrs. G: Of course we’ll sleep. We just won’t do it at home.

Mr. G: Have you been eating those old berries? You’re not making sense.

Mrs. G: Didn’t I tell you about den2den? You travel to another state and spend the winter in someone else’s den.

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Mr. G: That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. Why would I want to sleep in someone else’s den?

Mrs. G: In the spring you get to see a different part of the country.

Mr. G: Great. Foreign grass. Where did you get this wonderful idea?

Mrs. G: From Margaret. Someone told her about it.

Mr. G: Margaret’s crazy, you know. Do I have to listen to her the entire trip?

Mrs. G: As a matter of fact, you don’t.

Mr. G: Are they going somewhere different?

Mrs. G: Actually, they’re not going. Bob said it was a stupid idea and refused to sign up.

Mr. G: I knew I liked Bob. I’m not going either.

Mrs. G: It’s too late. I’ve paid in full. In fact, the shuttle will be here shortly.

(Mr. G grumbles and paces. Before too long he hears wheels.)

Image result for animals traveling cartoon

Mrs. G: C’mon dear, it’s time to go. Are you packed?

Mr. G (sarcastically): My spare fur is at the cleaner.

(They sleep for the entire trip.)

Driver: Well, here we are.

Mr. G: Where is here? I’m freezing.

Driver: Not really sure. I just follow the GPS.

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Mr. G: So where is this den?

Driver: Right over there.

(He points to a small opening at the bottom of a hill.)

Mr. G:That doesn’t look like a groundhog den.

(The driver looks at his printout.)

Driver: Says here it belongs to a mole.

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Mr. G: I thought it was den2den. Moles live underground. They don’t have dens.

Driver: Hmmm. Guess there was some kind of mix-up.

Mr. G: So fix it.

Driver: I’m just the driver. You need to talk to your agent.

(Mr. G looks at Mrs. G.)

Mr. G: Who’s our agent?

Mrs. G: I don’t know. I bought the booking from Margaret.

Driver: That’s against the rules. You couldn’t stay here even if you wanted to.

Mr. G (gritting his teeth): So what do we do now?

Driver: Well, let me think.

(He makes a couple of phone calls.)

Driver: The Mouse House and Rodent Inn are both full. You probably don’t want the Fox Den or Eagles’ Nest. How’s the park sound?

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Mr. G: Fine. We’ll make arrangements to get home in the morning.

Mrs: Margaret told me about a great ride service. You call a number and an animal will drive you in his personal vehicle. I think I have the number on my phone.

(Mr. G glares at her.)

 

 

 

6

Critter Capers: Wintertime Blues

Super Snooper (SS): It’s good to finally be back.

Kommando Kitty (KK): Yeah. Mom’s been sick so much this winter that she keeps putting off typing our article. It is nice having her around to sleep with, though.

SS: Particularly when she turns on that bed warmer thing.

KK: It’s really nice when she turns it on and goes away for a few minutes. We can lay on the warmest spot before she gets in bed.

SS: And she finally understands that it’s impossible to move both of us at the same time. The only bad thing is that they shut the door to downstairs down. So we have to find someone to let us up there.

KK: Dad keeps talking about how much it would cost to heat the upstairs as warm as the downstairs. He makes it sound like it’s warm downstairs.

SS: I know. We have to sleep together to keep from freezing. And we have fur!

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Horatio Hedgehog (HH): What are you two yowling about now?

KK: How cold it is. Mom won’t even open the drapes sometimes. She says the old windows let cold air in. Why don’t they just buy new windows? Why should we have to suffer?

HH: It doesn’t feel very cold to me.

SS: That’s because your cage is heated!

HH: I come out to explore sometimes.

SS: Dad puts you on a heated blanket before you go anywhere!

HH: Maybe he just likes me better.

(low growls)

HH: Well, you know I am more popular. My introduction was the favorite story last year according to that report Mom got. (https://cat9984.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/horatio-hedgehog-intrepid-explorer )

KK: Yeah, we saw it. You were a couple of spots above the one talking about fake cheese (https://cat9984.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/cheez-whiz-love-it-or-hate-it )

HH: You’re just jealous. There is one problem with Mom being sick. Dad forgot to tell her that I was almost out of treats before she stayed home from work. No wax worms for days!

KK and SS: Awwww. Poor hedgie!

HH: Fine. I’ll just go back to my nice warm bed and sleep.

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SS: Let’s go see if there’s any food left in the kitchen.

KK: OK. Then we can go back to sleep.

6

Christmas in the Forest – Part 2

Mrs. G looks around. It appeared that everyone had arrived. She goes over to Mr. G. He is speaking with Stag.

Mr. G: I don’t want a repeat of last year. The does are here to enjoy themselves, not to fend you off. It’s too late in the year for that nonsense.

Stag: Some of them enjoy the attention.

Mr. G: And some of them don’t. If you can’t behave properly, this will be your last “truce”. You look like you might be a tasty post-hibernation snack.

Mrs. G: Dear! I told you – none of those jokes tonight.

Mr. G (looks at Stag): Who says I’m joking?

Stag: Very well. Point made. (Walks off.)

Mrs. G: I’m going to serve dinner.

She motions everyone to be quiet.

Mrs. G: Welcome everyone! I hope you’re having a good time. The food is ready, so enjoy.

The carnivores settle in one place, the herbivores in another. The herbivores are not at all comfortable watching the bears eating other animals, even if they weren’t relatives.

Mr. G is in a bad mood. He doesn’t like being near his favorite snacks and not be able to eat them. It was risky for Mrs. G to go to the ranches to get the cows and sheep. What if she got shot for the benefit of some stupid deer?

Mr. G: Darling, why is Mrs. B sitting with the carnivores? She says she doesn’t eat anything except berries. She should be over there with the mice and squirrels.

Mrs. G: Don’t be silly. She’s a bear and a member of the family. Look at her. Do you really think she’d be that “healthy looking” if all she ate was berries? That’s just another of her acts. Besides, the raccoons are with us and they eat anything.

Mr. G: Exactly. They eat meat.

Mrs. G nuzzles him. He hugs her and calms down.

The talk turns to the coming winter. All the signs point to a worse year than last year. The hibernators wonder if they’d put on enough fat. The small animals worry that they will end up as someone’s meal.

Mrs. G: Enough of the gloom. We’re here to have fun. I have a special treat for dessert.

Everyone waits in anticipation. She disappears into the den and comes back with her paws full of honeycombs. The guests gasp.

Mr. B: Mmm! Where did you find that much honey?

Mrs. G: It’s top secret. (She had found a rancher who raised honey bees.)

She divides the honey between all of the guests, the size of the treat proportional to the size of the animal. The small animals had never tasted honey; it belonged to the bears in the forest. Mrs. G stopped in front of the Black Bears. She gives a large piece to Mr. B and looks at Mrs. B.

Mrs. G: Do you want a piece, dear? I guess probably not, since it’s not berries.

Mr. G smiles at his wife’s cleverness. He could see Mrs. B struggling with an answer. Everyone knows black bears love honey. Finally Mrs. B. gives in.

Mrs. B: Well, I guess I could make an exception this one time. A small piece would be lovely.

Mrs. G: I’m so glad you’ll try it. It really is delicious.

Mr. G has trouble not laughing.

After dinner, the animals play games. The bears wrestle and most of the others run around. Mr. G sees Stag talking with some the does and walks over to see what is going on.

Stag: Mr. G, what a wonderful party you and your wife have put together! We’ve been talking about how great the food was.

Doe: Yes, I’m having a lot of fun. And Stag has been entertaining us with stories of how he has escaped being a trophy on somebody’s wall for the last couple of years. I’d heard that he is rather wild, but he’s been a perfect gentleman all evening.

Stag smiles gratefully. He had hoped someone would have noticed the change. Mr. G nods in approval and returns to his wife.

Mr. G: Well dear, it looks like another success.

Mrs. G: I think you’re right. Have you managed to make it around to say hello to everyone?

Mr. G: I think so.

Mrs. G: Even the herbivores?

Mr. G (low growl): You know I hate talking to them. They’re all afraid of me.

Mrs. G: Well you are the biggest, noisiest bear in the forest. And you look pretty grumpy most of the time. Go show them your charming side.

Mr. G (sighs): Yes, dear.

He heads to the herbivores looking as friendly as possible.

Soon the guests start to leave. Mrs. Snowshoe Rabbit looks around anxiously.

Mrs. S: Has anyone seen my husband?

The herbivores look around nervously. They don’t see Mr. S or Mr. G.

Mrs. S (looking at Mrs. G): You don’t think…

Mrs. G (a little nervous): Don’t worry, dear. I’m sure he’s around somewhere.

Just as she starts toward the trees, Mr. G and Mr. S appear, talking intently to each other. Seeing his wife’s face, Mr. S hurries over to assure her that all is well.

Mr. S: Don’t worry, sweetie. Mr. G was just showing me how to spot those traps the humans put up in the winter.

Mrs. S: That’s very kind of you, Mr. G. Thank you so much. I’m sorry I thought something bad had happened.

Mr. G: No hard feelings at all. I know my reputation. Have a safe trip home.

The Grizzlies start to get ready for bed.

Mrs. G: I’m so proud of you, being so gracious to all the herbivores.

Mr. G (feeling guilty): Well, not quite all of them.

Mrs. G: What do you mean?

Mr. G: Well…. Those skunks who kept running around pretending to squirt everyone really got on my nerves. I took them out back, but they just laughed. So I hit them with my paw.

Mrs. G: So what happened?

Mr. G: Well, the neighbors won’t have to worry about the smell anymore. The bodies are out back. (Waits for Mrs. G’s response.)

Mrs. G: Well, since the deed is done, let’s have a midnight snack.

 

 

 

2

Dude, You’re Harshing My Mellow

A few thoughts after recent people-watching:

Guy sees a car skidding ahead of him. Car then slows down to continue. Guy gets irritated because first driver is so slow, starts to tail-gate. First car slows more (probably because truck is so close behind him).

Guy A hates job. Spends numerous hours trashing it on Facebook and with co-workers. Comes to work one Saturday. After 15 minutes, tells his boss he quits. Goes home and trashes job on Facebook. Guy B has to do both his job and Guy A’s job on Saturday. Gets on Facebook and sees Guy A’s post about how he got even at work and walked out. Guy B flames Guy A. Guy A bans Guy B. Guy A surprised because Guy B always had his back at work.

When I had a job with real responsibilities, I was always a little nervous about returning after a vacation. There was usually some crisis waiting for me. I was reminded of that yesterday when the Health Department made a surprise visit to the deli on the day my team leader was off. Apparently it’s a health hazard to have chickens’ bodily fluids on the floor of a cooler where you store food.

Woman stands in front of a food display talking to someone about buying an object. Gets frustrated when another customer wants what she is blocking. More irritated when employee tries to put something on the shelf. Finishes phone call, grabs what she wants, and leaves.

Man shopping with small child in cart. Child starts crying. Man snaps his fingers in the child’s face to get him to stop crying. Surprised when it doesn’t work. Reprimands the child.

Man says he can’t find hand warmers (inserts for his gloves). Employee explains that they are seasonal, and that the winter stuff is gone and has been replaced by spring merchandise. Man explains that it is not yet spring.

Woman yells at man to come to where shes looking at something. Then woman snaps at man that he is getting the wrong thing. Proceeds to tell man that what he is looking at is not healthy enough for her. Woman seems surprised when man steps aside and lets woman choose the rest of what they are buying.

Driver proceeding along dry road at 20 mph slower than posted speed. Slows further every once in a while. Driver behind appears to be following patiently. First driver suddenly comes to an almost complete stop to make a right turn (onto a road). Second driver honks and swerves around first driver making turn.

Workers arrive to find a snowplow has blocked the entire section by the door while it removes snow from the lot. They are forced to park at the far end of the lot and walk through the new snow. At actual start time, the snow plow moves to a new section, opening up the employee parking.

Employees are allowed 12 unscheduled days off before they are terminated. The days drop off after a rolling 12-month period. Employee keeps track of when a day falls off so he can call in again. Since it is unscheduled, other employees have to pick up the slack.

Employee tells manager that he cannot come to work before 3a because of family obligations. Department is short-staffed. Management schedules him to start at midnight. Tells management he cannot start at midnight. Management does not change schedule. Employee gets marked as late.

Customer leaves cart in middle of aisle while she looks at merchandise. Gets irritated when other customer moves her cart a little while trying to get around.

Kraft tells everyone there is a Velveeta shortage. We do not have a shortage. Kraft sends large quantity of Velveeta after the “shortage”. Extra Velveeta sits on the shelves.

Trash compacter is full one night, so all trash needs to be held until the next morning. When deli trash is taken over, the deli team leader brings the used grease. Management tells her she can’t put that in the compacter, it will leak out. Team leader gets frustrated and pulls cart with grease quickly through the swinging door back onto the floor by the meat department. Jerks cart and grease containers fall over, spilling grease all over the floor behind the meat department. It smells horrendous. Team leader tells employee she has to help clean it up. While employee is working, team leader gets a phone call. Team leader walks away to talk on phone. Employee finishes cleaning up grease for next hour.

Next time, the deli cleans out fryer Monday morning and puts old grease in container in receiving department. It is considered hazardous waste. It is not going to be picked up for several days. It smells horrendous. Back end of store continues to smell like rotting chicken.

Company wants to cut staffing costs. Cuts hours. Complains that floor doesn’t look as good as it used to. Brings in vendors to stock during the day. Vendors are responsible for stocking, not customer service. Company wonders why customers are not giving them the same outstanding customer service reviews they have received in the past.

Can you believe it? I managed to get through without one situation that directly impacted me.

6

Rhetoric and Questions

I was going to title this post “Rhetorical Questions.” But then I realized that I might not actually know what that phrase meant. And I certainly wouldn’t want to embarrass myself with that type of silly error, would I? (Correct usage of a rhetorical question.) So I went to my source of all things correct, Wikipedia (sarcasm, not rhetoric). And here is what I found.

Rhetoric is the art of persuasive discourse. That means talking to inform, persuade, or motivate an audience.

Rhetorical questions are asked to encourage the listener to consider a message or viewpoint, not to get an answer. So if someone asks you, “Are all dogs this dumb?”, you may want to consider the possibility that the person doesn’t like dogs and is looking for support of that position.

Ever get the uncomfortable feeling that you are learning something from my posts? (Correct usage of a rhetorical question)

The following questions are rhetorical, and I do not expect an answer. You may answer quietly to yourselves if you so desire. (more sarcasm)

Why would the store put a picture of a live lobster in the middle of a picture of Valentine’s Day gifts? Among the candy, flowers, and cute stuffed animals was a live lobster. “Happy Valentine’s Day! I brought you a live lobster! If you don’t want him as a pet, you can cook him for dinner.”

Why did the heater on my car die during the coldest winter in recent memory?

I started wearing my mother’s jacket instead of my own because there would be room for a hoodie under it. So why do I never remember the hoodie until I’m freezing in the car?

Why is the iciest patch of the road right at the end of my driveway?

Why was management so much more supportive of my being sick when I returned healthy than when I called in sick?

Admittedly I’ve been looking a little shaggy, but did no one in my family actually notice that I had 3 inches of hair cut off?

Why are the people who complain the most at work usually the same ones who don’t want to listen when something bugs you? (Actually, that happens in real life too)

Why are people surprised when they tell a coworker a “secret” and then hear it from someone else later? Haven’t they noticed how much gossip they hear about their coworkers?

Why was I so surprised that the new management trainee in the deli didn’t know how to use a string mop? A very nice middle-aged male customer tried to explain it to her, but was unsuccessful. Isn’t there something about a place that serves freshly roasted chickens, soup, salads, and sliced meat that screams “at some point, you’re going to need to clean something up?” How naïve am I that I was surprised she didn’t stick around to watch me actually use the mop? (3 questions-for-1 situation – bonus)

How did we get to the point that we’re shocked when a stranger does something nice? A customer I had never seen before stopped and gave me a Valentine. I put it where I could see it and thought about him several times during the day.

When did my standards for weather get so low that 17 degrees and sunny qualifies as a nice day?

Why does the template for these posts say the heading is optional? Everywhere else they tell us how important a good title is for drawing people in.

Why can I never find a decent close for this type of post?

0

Guess What I Learned!!

To celebrate the kids going back to school tomorrow (finally) and the truly lovely weather we’ve been having, I have put together a little quiz. You can see whether any of the mind-numbing number of facts “experts” have been giving out have been sticking. We will be using the honor system here, so I trust there will be no cheating. If somehow you are caught cheating, you will be shipped to the Arctic Circle and handcuffed to a polar bear.

1. Which of the following is not something painful that can happen to your body in cold weather? a. Chilblain; b. Creeping Crud; c. Deep Frostbite; d. Frostnip; e. Superficial Frostbite; f. Trench Foot

2. The following are the symptoms of what disease: sore throat, fever, headache, muscle aches, congestion,cough? a. Bronchitis; b. Common Cold; c. Flu; d. Strep Throat; e. Whatever is currently going around that someone has given me; f. Whooping Cough

3. Which of the following is not true of the differences between a cold and the flu? a. Cold symptoms come on more quickly; b. Flu lasts longer than a cold; c. I get more sympathy when I tell someone I have the flu; d. There are many more things that cause a cold

4. Influenza A is the most common type of flu virus. What area has not been identified as a starting point for one of the viruses? a. Asia; b. China; c. The local high school where the kids share everything; d. Russia; e. Spain

5. What species are the only ones susceptible to Influenza B? a. Ferrets; b. Humans; c. People who steal the food and office supplies of sick coworkers; d. Pigs; e. Seals

6. Which of the following cities is not in the top ten in average annual snowfall in the U.S.? a. Amherst, NY; b. Clay, NY; c. Cocnino, AZ; d. Duluth, MN; e. Niagara Falls, NY

7. How many states have an average winter temperature of less than 20 degree fahrenheit? a. Three; b. Five; c. Seven; d. Nine; e. Who cares, I’m tired of slipping on the ice?

8. What sport will finally be ending its television season in February? a. College Football; b. Curling; c. Detroit Pistons basketball; d. Pro Football; e. Southern Hemisphere Beach Volleyball; f. You mean my significant other really hasn’t been watching reruns of the same games since November?

9. How many Olympic Sports require ice skates? a. Three; b. Five; c. Seven; d. Nine; e. You mean it’s already time for the Olympics again?

The answers are below.

1. b (a form of jungle rot); 2. c; 3. a (cold symptoms come on gradually); 4. b; 5. all but d; 6. d.(it’s #15); 7. c (Alaska, N. Dakota; Minnesota; Maine, Wisconsin, Vermont, S. Dakota); 8. d; 9. b (curling, figure skating, ice hockey, short-track speed skating, speed skating).

Scoring (Number Right):

8 – 9: Obviously you have spent too much time in front of the TV/Computer Screen. Go out and learn how to ski jump or snowboard.

4 – 7: You may be obsessed with winter germs/diseases. Go to the mall and practice the safe hygiene tips you have learned.

1 – 3: You may have spent time reading an actual book or interacting socially with other people. Go get your flu shot and start washing your hands more.

0: You have been asleep for the past two months. Return to your hibernation.