I have no quarrel with the groundhog. They used to make large holes in pastures, and cows would step in them and break their legs. Hunters enjoyed lying on ridges and picking them off with rifles and scopes from 200 yards away. Now that the coyotes are plentiful and hungry, the lowly but darn smart groundhogs have wised up and mostly live under sheds and barns near people. Coyotes don’t like getting close to people, but groundhogs don’t seem to mind.
At our farm in Patrick County, I am counting 5 who live about 30 yards from the back porch door. One is very fat but has surprising speed, one is medium, and there are three young small ones. Once our son-in-law’s Shih-Tzu (a breed with no hunting instinct), Winston, went up to a baby groundhog, and they touched noses. If the Yorkipoo Bailey had been there, it would have ended badly. Poor baby groundhog. I know some people with gardens (including my own gentle brother) shoot them without regret or guilt because of the amount of lettuce and green beans they can consume in an evening. I planted 2 raspberry bushes this Spring, and by golly one of the rascals did strip all the leaves off of one of them. But then he lost interest, and the vine recovered. Maybe I was just lucky. We have lots and lots of grass, and they can have all they want. Kate’s grandmother, who lived on this farm, once served Kate groundhog when she was a child. Very very greasy she reports. Does not taste like chicken.
What I most love and admire about the groundhog is their attentiveness. If you watch them for a while, they are always popping up and looking around for trouble. Their hearing is amazing. They can not only hear me coming, they can feel the vibrations in the ground as I walk ever so slowly and quietly toward them. Sometimes all it takes is for me to open the screen door just a crack, and they will sense danger and go running to their different hiding places. They have so many hiding places.
We should be very happy that life in general is rarely so dangerous that we need to be constantly on the alert like that. Though there are certainly times in history and even in current circumstances that people must feel like the poor groundhog — the world is very dangerous, there are enemies all around that want to kill me, the only way I can survive is to be constantly vigilant.
But I would like to suggest that the Christian response to life should be, if we can be so lucky as to not to be in constant danger, just the opposite. We must be constantly vigilant about others who are in danger and distress, and instead of running away and going into a nice safe hole, we must run toward the danger and offer our help. I would like to be more like the groundhog in its attentiveness to danger and do more to help. It’s a work in progress.