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One Day Last Week:

About a year ago I bought a waterfront lot on the backwaters of the Tennessee River where I promptly built a small but comfortable bungalow with an auxiliary sun-room. Soon after setting up housekeeping, I was out mowing the front yard one day, and I looked up at the empty lot next door and saw a groundhog sauntering across the field looking for fresh greens to eat. I grew up part time on Guntersville lake, and confess I’ve always considered myself only a little bit country, mostly rock-n-roll. So, in spite of all my time outdoors, I can scarcely remember seeing a groundhog until more recent years.

Since I didn’t know a lot about groundhogs I decided to look him up on the Internet. Some references say that a groundhog has never met a plant he doesn’t like. According to the National Geographic website, “groundhogs have been the bane of many a gardener.” Good thing, I guess, that I haven’t been in too big a rush to plant my tomatoes.

Seeing the creature next door, I’ve been trying to take his picture for several months. I’ll walk out the front door, and there he’ll be. Back inside I go to get the camera, and about half the time, my ambling about is just enough to scare him off. Other times, I’ve managed to return out front with the camera and take a few shots. But, even though he doesn’t spook too easily, he’s still skittish and every time I try to maneuver closer than about 25 yards, off he goes back into the underbrush.

Well, this morning I stepped out to the sun room for a few minutes and headed out the back door for some fresh air. As soon as I stepped outside, I beheld three little groundhog pups. I froze immediately thinking they’d quickly be gone. It didn’t take long until they saw me, but they didn’t seem to care. So, I remained still, the pups about ten feet in front of me, and just watched them milling around chewing on the fresh green vegetation. And I was thinking, if I turn around and go for the camera they’ll be gone sure enough. But of course, that’s what I had to do, and so quietly I turned around and went inside to get the camera, knowing when I returned they’d be long gone. But, they weren’t.

I have no clue how big they are when they’re born, or how long it takes for the new litter to come up from their underground lair in the spring. These guys, however, in spite of the fact that they seemed trusting of me, were staying very close to the tunnel entrance that I thought had been abandoned by the big guy next door. I watched and snapped photos for close to an hour, and all the while they stayed within ten feet of the tunnel and just as close or closer to me for almost the entire time. All the while, I was thinking the momma was bound to show up and might turn out to like the looks of my red blooded leg after all if she were to think I was threatening her pups. But, she never did show up. By the time I took plenty of shots, and was ready to head back inside, two of the little critters actually wandered several yards in the opposite direction. Just exploring about.

They really are cuddly looking creatures. In case you’re wondering, I also found out that while they are Koala bear cute, they are actually rodents and the largest critter in the squirrel family. Basic squirrels are not marsupials, and so apparently groundhogs are not closely related to Koala’s in spite of similarities in appearance. Apparently however, I am not the only one to notice the resemblance of groundhogs and koalas as I actually found Internet references about backyard races between the two to see which is faster.

Next Afternoon:
Just stepped outside the front door, and there’s the big guy outstanding in his field. But, the pups are with him.

Two Days Later:
Went out back today and there the pups were again. You’ll notice I mention there are three in the litter. I spent several shots during our first encounter trying to get them all three together in one frame. I did, but it wasn’t really composed as tightly as I would’ve liked. Again, I would have to go back inside for the camera. But, before I did, all three lined up right next to each other, one looking left, one looking right, and the one in the middle looking straight at me. It would have been the perfect shot. When I got back with the camera, they would have none of it, and summarily refused to cooperate for their group shot. I swear, it was if they were goading me before I went to get to the camera!

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© 2015 – Jim Casey
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