As I have written before, groundhogs live in my yard.
They're fat, furry, graceless, beaver-faced things and they live well in and out of their hole, feasting, not just on what grows, but on birdseed that's fallen from our bird feeder, and food thrown to them from the second-story window by my wife, Deborah. I think they also eat some of the dry cat food we leave out for a neighborhood stray cat.
We try to feed them most in the fall, because we know they'll be going down to hibernate soon, and a groundhog needs fat to sleep through our harsh New England winters.
The main entrance to their hole is near our back fence, and it's a pretty cavernous excavation for our small yard. The opening is about two feet across, but a fully fed groundhog is also pretty broad from side to side, so they need a big hole.
A groundhog is lucky to live six years, and we've been here 10 years, so we're been through more than one of the beasts. They run from humans, as they should, so you can't get close enough to them to get a real guess at their sex. Sometimes, the groundhog to whom we gave a male name comes up in the spring with pups. That happened with our first groundhog, George, who was later revealed to be Georgette.
We name all our groundhogs, and the their pups, with names that begin with a soft "g." There has been George/Georgette, Gervaise, Gerard and Geno.
This spring, when Geno came up into the sunshine, the presence of a small, furry groundhog pup indicated that Geno is actually Genevieve.
Genevieve and mom Georgette went down to hibernate together last fall, but only Genevieve came back, bringing with her one palm-sized pup, so maybe there was some groundhog death underground. The pup will leave soon, and set up his/her own life, maybe in the cemetery across the street from our house.
Despite the roly-poly presence of groundhogs in our yard, I have never seen a dead one, not for the decade we've had them in our garden.
They're like rich people in that way. I was a working newspaper street reporter for 36 years, and I've seen a number of dead people on the sidewalk. They were all poor, and a good number of them were homeless, making them slightly worse off than groundhogs.
Barring an accident with the BMW, rich people tend to die indoors, and the obituary often says, "arrangements private," because you are not allowed to look at a dead rich person, not any more than you're encouraged to look at them when they're alive.
Because I don't ever seem to see a mother/father groundhog duo, I tend to believe that the males get gone pretty quickly after conception occurs, a common thing in 2019 America.
I'm 62 years old and I might have another 20 years left in me, or about three groundhogs.
And if there are such things as obituaries three groundhogs from now, I hope mine says: "Marc Munroe Dion, 82, newspaperman, writer and provider of groundhog habitat. Arrangements are private, but hibernating friends are encouraged to visit him this winter in his new hole."
Then, if there's room, it should say something about where I went to college.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, "The Land of Trumpin'," is a collection of columns, some of which celebrate animals, and some of which mourn America. It is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and for Kindle, Nook, iBooks and GooglePlay.
Photo credit: Cairomoon at Pixabay