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Punxsutawney Phil may have 'relatives' in Marion

Staff writer

Though Marion County doesn’t have an official answer to Punxsutawney Phil, the legendary Pennsylvania groundhog who allegedly can predict the beginning of spring using only his shadow, the county does have its share of Phil’s rascally relatives.

About five years ago, a groundhog, affectionately named “Hog 1” by Bearly Makin-It owner Marion Ogden, took a notion to make a den in a compost pile near Ogden’s garden, which rests on a wooded hillside overlooking Marion City Park.

“We’d always see them up on their hind legs munching on tomatoes,” Ogden said. “They have excellent use of their hands. I’ve seen them pick up carrots, too.”

Beyond foraging in the garden, Ogden said “Hog 1” didn’t really pose a danger or bother him that much. At times when he would be within three feet of it while it munched on treats it found in the Ogden’s slop bucket. He and his wife Linda built a fence around the garden and elected to live in harmony with the beast.

“It ate everything, but it never really bothered us,” he said. “The only thing that bothers me is those damn vultures up on the water tower. If they’re not pooping, they’re puking on everything.”

However, about two years ago “Hog 1” got a little too friendly.

One day Ogden returned home with a roll of clear plastic Marion City trash bags, and tossed them on the garage floor below a dispenser.

When he came back in need of a bag, the roll was gone.

“I didn’t really think much of it at the time,” he said. “It was spring time, and I thought maybe Linda had taken the bags out to our garden.”

Outside, Ogden noticed several blue twisty ties on the trail to the garden and followed them like breadcrumbs until he noticed the trash bags strung-out on a rock ledge where his compost pile sat.

“There must have been a quarter of the roll, unrolled, leading right into the hog’s den,” Ogden said. “So I called Linda outside and said, ‘Look at this thing can you believe this?’ She said, ‘Well, reach in there and pull it out, Oggie.’ I said, ‘You stick your hand in there!’”

After so much deliberation, Ogden began pulling on the trash bags until the roll separated on a perforation between bags.

“I bet there is about a half a roll of bags in there,” he said. “I’m sure it’s a really good insulator and moisture barrier.”

Within the last two years, nature took its course and “Hog 1” found its soul mate “Jog 2.” Soon thereafter “Hogs 3, 4, and 5” were born.

Subsequently, Ogden found holes in front of and behind his house he determined were connected with a trench.

Later, he discovered two more holes, one on either side of his back porch near the deck.

“I cemented up the holes and thought that was the end of it,” he said. “Well, last July Linda complained about this horrible smell. We thought it might be a natural gas leak so we called Stacey Collett.”

However, upon investigating the alleged leak, Collett found no sign of a leak in the house, or under the deck near the foundation.

“Stacey asked me if something had died under the house,” Ogden said. “Now, my assumption was that one of the groundhogs got trapped in the trench and died.”

Ogden set about removing the cement caps from the hole.

“It was a 110-degree day,” he said. “The smell was so bad it just radiated around the house. I mean it was so foul it made your eyes water. I decided to just take care of it after we got back.”

The Ogdens left for an Independence Day vacation July 3 and returned the following day at 6 p.m.

“There was no smell,” Ogden said. “No smell at all. It was gone and the only thing I could think was that one of the other groundhogs had come and pulled “Hog 1” out from underneath the house and buried him somewhere else.”

Ogden said he couldn’t prove that happened, but considering the dexterity of groundhog paws he thought it was indeed possible, particularly if they worked together.

“I guess you could say we live in ‘Hog Heaven,’” Ogden joked. “Linda is an excellent weather predictor and one heck of a cat-whisperer. Maybe that’s why they came around.”

Last modified Feb. 4, 2015

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