Digging up support for an official Mass. groundhog
LINCOLN — Now that that interim senator business is over with, let’s turn to a really important appointment.
Do you know that Massachusetts has been without an official groundhog for centuries?
As prognosticating rodents go, Punxsutawney Phil takes up a lot of oxygen, but he isn’t the only official, big-name woodchuck in the world. Ohio has Buckeye Chuck, for example. Georgia has General Beauregard Lee. And Connecticut has the inelegantly appellated Chuckles.
What gives, Massachusetts? It’s not like we’re above naming official things around here. We have an official artist (Norman Rockwell), an official bean (baked, natch), an official bird (chickadee), even an official blues musician (rock on, Taj Mahal).
No woodchuck. Every Feb. 2, official groundhogs are hauled out of semihibernation all over this country and held aloft by top-hatted men so they can see, or not see, their shadows. This is important business, people.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. Mish Michaels has been on this crusade since 2007. “We should have a local groundhog, with local expertise,” she says. As a meteorologist with WBZ-TV, Michaels got to know a ball of fur who lives at Drumlin Farm. That’s the one, she decided.
Her official name is Woodchuck B, but over the years, Michaels and other groundhog enthusiasts have come to call her Ms. G. Kids at Wellesley’s Hunnewell Elementary School, where Michaels’s daughter is a student, have made it a mission to turn Ms. G into the state’s official groundhog.
This means legislation, lobbying, the whole shebang. Representative Alice Peisch, a Wellesley Democrat, agreed to file a bill.
Proposing this kind of law is a precarious business these days, easy fodder for critics who deride legislators as do-
nothings. So let me note for the record that, in addition to this weighty groundhog business, Peisch has also proposed other laws, on such vital issues as improving the state’s lead paint law, giving disabled students who can’t pass the MCAS alternative diplomas, and closing the achievement gap.
And she takes pains to point out that this, too, is an education bill, to teach kids about weather, the environment, and the way the Legislature works. “There’s an awful lot of concern today that our students don’t receive an education in civics,” she says. “This in a small way will address that.”
The kids appear to be catching on fast. These future lobbyists of America brought along groundhog-shaped cookies on their first visit to Beacon Hill, to win legislators over.
Provided there are no objections, and no rivals surface (sorry), Ms. G should be official in the next year or so.
When I went to visit her this week, the woodchuck seemed entirely unaffected by the hubbub. Or by anything, really; she was barely awake. Orphaned as a baby and raised by hand, she now has a luxurious pen at Drumlin Farm. Though she’s not out in the wild, she knows it’s hibernating time, and she doesn’t appreciate being roused from her slumber.
Warmed by heating pads by Massachusetts Audubon Society workers, Ms. G did everything reluctantly, and in adorable slow motion. Then, after a couple of minutes, she turned her behind to your reporter, as if to say, “Interview over!” and curled into a ball. Believe me, I’ve had ruder dismissals by would-be public officials.
On Saturday, Groundhog Day, Ms. G will be brought outside around 10 a.m. A crowd of children and some TV cameras will be waiting for her. If she’s awake, she will endure this with her customary equanimity. Then some silly humans will draw a conclusion about winter and attribute it to her.
For enduring this alone, she deserves official status,. But legislators had better get a move on. Groundhogs usually live for eight to 10 years. Ms. G is 10 already.
No matter how brief her tenure, this critter deserves her props. For me and for many others, she will always be the OG of MA.