In All His Furry Splendor: Digging Up the Life and Legacy of Punxsutawney Phil
I recently sat down with Punxsutawney, PA's most famous resident/rodent at his home in the Punxsutawney Memorial Library with nothing other than a tape recorder, a few stock questions, and a slight sense of intimidation, which he immediately sensed and capitalized on. As you'll see, he wasn't happy about being woken up in the middle of his hibernation period. These are his grumpy little thoughts.
Good morning, Phil. I'd like to start by asking you whether or not you feel that you've been presented fairly by the media?
Why does everyone think they know me? Who are they to judge, ridicule, or celebrate my existence? Why can't they all just leave me alone! I don't have all the answers, and if I did, I certainly wouldn't tell you! I'm just a simple guy who wants to live a simple life. Is that so much to ask? Why can't you all just accept my privacy and let me be! Bill Murray was all up in my business, Bam Margera was all up in my business - Shoot! They even flew me to Chicago so that Oprah Winfrey could be all up in my business! I didn't ask for any of this, but you all just won't quit will you? Okay, okay... jeez... fine! You've got me right where you want me (as usual), Punxsutawney Phil in all my furry splendor - on wax, at last.
Okay... Well, we really appreciate your time, sir. Can you give us a little background on how you came to be the foremost rodent prognosticator in the business?
Business!?!?! Am I getting compensated for any of this? Has someone wrapped up a century's worth of checks in a Roth IRA I'm unaware of? Heck no! You humans are the nosiest (not to mention the noisiest) damn creatures strutting around this planet, acting like you own everything and feeling entitled to every single detail of everyone's personal life. Sheesh... absolutely incapable of taking a hint (trails off muttering something in Groundhoguese).
So, I suppose, if you must know, I'll fill you in some of the particulars about my wasted existence as the jester laureate of Jefferson County. Since I'm used to being jostled, prodded, and flipped in all directions by Ben and John, (Author's Note: Ben Hughes and John Griffiths have served as Phil's - and his wife Phyllis - handlers for years) leaving me dizzy and disoriented, I suppose it's only appropriate that I begin at the end...HA! The END... that's a laugh! (followed my maniacal laughter from Phil; an uncomfortable smirk was all I could muster).
What's the strange chuckling all about, Phil?
I am the oldest living marmot in the history of the world, and there's no end in sight. This year, I will not be celebrating year number 123 on my odometer. To put that into a bit of perspective for you, other than my nag of a wife, Phyllis, I'm over 100 years older than the next oldest groundhog. I've lived through two World Wars and 22 American Presidents. I read about the Moon Landing over Ben's shoulder in the Punxsutawney Spirit (damn slanderous rag, anyway), and I witnessed The Fall of the Berlin Wall from the TV monitor in the science-fiction section of the library.
I'm ancient. What's my secret? Hell if I know! Phyllis and I just won't die! It's like this backwards podunk town has cast some kind of voodoo juju spell over us.
Hmmm... Won't die, eh? Alright, any theories on your immortality?
I've also always been highly suspicious of Ben and John. Attached to their arms are the hands that feed us (I curse their indomitable opposable thumbs!), and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they've been slipping something funky into my grass and berries this whole time. I mean, it's not like we're ordering from a gourmet menu of grasshopper and snail cuisine. We eat what we're given, and we drink what we're given. Really... how would Phyllis or I know the difference if they were slippin' jimmies in our food? So that's that, I guess.
So you feel like you've lived a pretty good life then?
To be honest, I was hoping all that Mayan groundhogwash was true! The months leading up to my winter nap this year were some of the happiest of my miserable existence. I was hoping to lay down for my nap in early November and never wake up. But, as usual, the whole thing was just a bunch of malarkey to drive you foolish bi-pods into a frenzy... paranoid freaks.
(Phil begins gnawing at his hind legs) Release me, Oh Lord! There's a century of arthritis in these rusty old bones. I got all sorts of aches, cramps, and spasms I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, which, at the moment, happens to be you! Actually, I take that back, I would wish this pain on you... Why won't you get out of my house!!! (At this point, I had to pet Phil's belly for several minutes before he was calm enough to resume our discussion.)
You're a good little marmot, aren't you? Okay, better? Good. Your thoughts on the holiday named in your honor?
So, I'm obviously the world's most famous recluse (at least now that that crackpot Salinger kicked the bucket. Although, I must say, I did enjoy that "Bananafish" story of his), but I have nowhere to hide! Every single year, without fail, they wake me up in the dark and pull me out from my comfy little spot here in the library and parade me out to that ridiculous festival again. All you silly humans spend the whole day celebrating - eating, drinking, dancing, carrying on with all sort of hullabaloo - but you never, not for one second, think about Phyllis and I. February 2nd is just waaaayyy too early for us groundhogs to be ruthlessly yanked out of our winter slumber. It's rude! How would you like to be woken up at 4 am every day when your alarm clock isn't set to go off for another three hours? Well, that's what happens to me every darn year! What's a groundhog gotta do to get a solid four month's rest?
Sounds pretty rough. But aren't you glad to have such a nice place to call home and millions of adoring fans?
You all think I have it so easy. Cushy spot here in the library and all the grass I can eat, but I'm here to set the record straight: It ain't none of it true! Phyllis is always on my case about this and that, Ben and John can't keep their filthy man hands off of me, and this grass tastes like a damn salad! I want grubs, I want freedom, I want Phyllis to stop crapping on my side of the cage, but most of all, I want to be able to dig.
It's what I was made to do, man!!! I think about it day and night - just clawing away, reaching into the vast recesses of the earth, establishing my dominance over the dirt and the rocks - STOP LAUGHING AT ME! I've never understood what's so funny about me expressing my instinctual needs to all you folks. My dreams are filled with sweet spewing fountains of dirt erupting from suburban lawns like fireworks over a calm lake on the Fourth of July - glorious, magnificent, radiant clumps of earth showering down all around me, slowly clearing a sacred hovel for me to spend my days. Then, I wake; every February 2nd, I wake, and I'm violently carted over to Gobbler's Knob. You people are just relentless!
Doesn't seem fair. I'm sorry.
You can take your damn sorry and stick it where the sun don't shine!
Apology Rescinded. One last question, Phil: Any hints about whether or not that terrifying shadow of yours will be making an appearance this year?
Although that's the dumbest question you've asked so far, I'm glad you brought it up. I want to set the record straight once and for all: I AM NOT AFRAID OF MY SHADOW! You yahoos want to parade me around like I'm the gosh darn Queen of Sheeba, and I'm just not havin' it! I'm not afraid of anything, I just don't like being ogled like a piece of meat! Who do you guys think I am, Katherine Webb? Well that makes you Brent Musberger you dirty old man!
I'm 28, Phil.
Whether I see my shadow or not, I just want to go back in my hole and get away from you people. I'm not afraid of a darn thing! Tornadoes, earthquakes, hot sauce, cemeteries, mothers-in-law, the deep end of the pool, Jack Daniels, roller coasters, Teletubbies, you name it - I'm not scared of it! 'Fraid of spiders? Heck no, I eat em! 'Fraid of Phyllis? Heck no, just fed up with her! 'Fraid of global warming? Heck no, I'll just dig deeper! I'm not scared of anything in this whole damn universe!
So... Early Spring?
Thanks for your time, Phil!