The Groundhog Named Chuck

Johnny liked wild animals better than tame ones. Johnny could stand as still as a tree listening and sniffing the breeze for signs of change. By the time he was eight years old, Johnny knew the difference between the caws of a crow. He knew which sounds signaled danger, which ones marked a territory, which were directed to finding a mate. When Johnny heard the groundhog whistle, he knew it was the sound of fear. Johnny went to Chuck’s rescue. That’s how they had become companions.

Chuck liked to gnaw on carrots with his extended buckteeth and he would come when Johnny called for him. He also liked to shell peanuts and chew the corn off a cob. Chuck would waddle into the house and crawl under Johnny’s bed for a nap. Johnny kept a lot of things under his bed, dirty clothes, magazines, and rocks he had collected. It must had been a comfortable place for the groundhog to burrow. Johnny didn’t make a secret of Chuck, but he didn’t show him to other children either. He knew Chuck liked privacy.

In many ways they were a lot alike, Johnny and Chuck. They each knew the benefits of staying still, listening with attention and respecting the space of others.

In autumn when the gold, orange, and red confetti leaves fell from the trees, Chuck got fatter and fatter and would soon start digging a hole for hibernation. Johnny never tried to find where Chuck had built his winter home.

Chuck wouldn’t come out of his deep sleep until it was really spring. No early peaking on February second, like his cousins Wiarton Willie or Punxsutawney Phil. When the frost was out of the earth, Chuck would come out of his hiding place underground, clean himself off and then look for something to eat. That’s when Johnny knew that it was really spring.