According to European folklore, the coming of spring was to be determined by whether a badger or sacred bear was to be seen wandering away from its winter burrow. The Pennsylvania Dutch, far from Europe and lacking in both badgers and sacred bears, substituted in the groundhog, an unremarkable rodent, as the harbinger of whether it would soon be time to put on their summer bonnets and schedule some barn-raisings. To this day, we are haunted by that decision, a choice that reifies a common lawn nuisance (and also ignores the need for us to celebrate sacred bears).
This morning, in zoos and quaint towns across the nation, mayors and officials and simple-minded spectators attempted to divine whether a groundhog had indeed seen its shadow or whether an early spring was on its way. The power was in the hands of a few furry despots, going by such pedestrian names as Punxsutawney Phil or Wiarton Willie or Staten Island Chuck. But make no mistake – groundhogs are brutal overlords. From eating vegetable gardens to destroying lawns to being just generally as mean as the statistical average, the groundhog (or, Woodchuck, as they sometimes brand themselves), is a national disgrace.
“They’re known for their aggression,” Douglas Schwartz, a groundhog trainer, told the New York Times. “Their natural impulse is to kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out. You have to work to produce the sweet and cuddly.”
On top of being a brutal, ice-cold, killer, the groundhog totally wimps out on winter, instead opting to hibernate. What a chump. Besides a brilliant Bill Murray movie, is there any true reason we continue this inane tradition with such an absolutely disappointing creature? Given the veritable bounty of animals that can be found across this great land of ours, why can’t we aspire to even greater animals to pay tribute to and receive divinations from?
Because we here at Maxim are all about the freedom of choice, we nominate the following animals to have their own day to make predictions. In unity, America, we will find strength, and finally overthrow this deified Marmot. Here are your choices:
Otter: Not only are otters slightly more intimidating than groundhogs (they’re furry carnivorous swimmers), they’re infinitely cuter: They hold hands while they’re sleeping so they don’t drift apart. How about staring at their adorable floating furry bodies for 15 minutes, and if they let go of each other, we get six more weeks of winter?
Koala: Not native to America, but adorable nonetheless, the Koala represents a shift away from the deviousness of the groundhog and more towards the blissed out sedentary lifestyle we all aspire to. The Koala would arrive late for his weather-prediction ceremony, fall asleep mid-proclamation, and then shrug. His message: Weather isn’t all that important after all and boy is this Eucalyptus tasty.
Raven: Ravens, the smartest of birds, would help us understand the fundamentals of the changing seasons and accept that weather is important in terms of both the natural and psychic planes. The raven explains at a gathering he has convened by a rural telephone line: “Winter gives the ground a chance to rest, and also an opportunity for ourselves to reflect on the challenges of the year ahead. Unfortunately, this winter will be endless, and the sadness, so very deep.” The Raven can be a bummer.
Unicorn: A day of impossible dreams, Unicorn Day is a day for predictions of things that cannot be endless summer, the cessation of all hostilities, deep space travel, and government-mandated spa treatments. Unicorn day is the most wistful of all days, and is more a state of mind than an actual possibility.
Kit Fox: The desert-dwelling, nocturnal lap predator will always be cagey about where it's getting information, saying that it "knows a guy," but will unfailingly be able to predict drought. The annual celebration of this feat will be a minor New Mexican holiday at first, but then catch on as Global Warming turns the American West into a sandbox. The Kit Fox will wear a tiny bandito mask and become a spokesperson for off-brand soda before eventually entering rehab, leading to the following New York Post headline: "Drying Out."
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