Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day

I've mentioned this story before, but in the spirit of Groundhog day, I'll share it again.

I grew up on a farm in southwestern Ontario. We had 25 acres of land that was farmed, 20 acres of bush and 5 acres around the house, barn and horse fields. One of the major problems that we faced was groundhogs. Not actually the animals themselves, as they are pretty shy. The problem comes from their burrows. They build these great complex underground tunnels that threaten the ground above it. Tractors have been known to break through the roof of a burrow and get stuck out in a field. I've twisted my ankle walking along and not noticing a groundhog hole. It can be lethal to horses, should they break a leg in one of the holes.

My father took it upon himself to go to war against the ground hogs on our farm. His main weapon of choice was a leghold trap. Being humane (which to me seems sorta ironic....) he would check the traps every day and kill any animal that he had captured. Being weird, he kept count of how many he killed each day on the kitchen calendar. EDITED TO ADD: I called my mother. The most he killed in one year was 120.

I was a tender soul growing up (still am, you can check with Hilary!). I had to leave the room if my mother was going to swat a fly (still do), could not be anywhere near the dead or dying mice that the cats brought home and had to avert my eyes from road kill lest it make me cry. So the idea of my father going around and killing things was not an easy one for me to handle. On the intellectual side, I knew that it had to be done, I just wanted to be far removed from all of it, including any discussions or tallies.

For the most part I was successful. Even if it did mean sticking my fingers in my ears, shutting my eyes real tight and signing LA-LA-LA-LA at the top of my lungs because my father loved to tease me.

Then there was that faithful day. We had been to town and were just driving up to the garage when we saw it. The biggest groundhog any of us had ever seen was sunning itself against the garage door. It was fast asleep. Before I knew what was happening, my father had stopped the truck, hopped out, grabbed a shovel from the truck bed and had beaten the groundhog over the head until it was dead. I think I went into shock.

I managed to avert my eyes and made my way into the house.

The worst was yet to come.

My father fancies himself as a bit of a Grizzly Adams , bush-man type. On this particular day he got it in his head that we should eat the groundhog for dinner. After all, meat is meat right? Why waste this one? So he scooped it up, took it to the shed to skin it and whatever else one must do (cause sure shootin', I wasn't going anywhere near it) and had my mother cook it up.

I don't think I spoke to my father for a week, even though he tried to tease me about it endlessly.

And my parents still wonder why I became a vegetarian when I was 13.

Happy Groundhog Day everyone!
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