Spring brings memories of meals past

By Grant McGee

Do you think we’re going to have an early spring?

I was driving on Manana Boulevard the other day and I thought I saw a hint of green in the globe willows in that neighborhood. The mild weather got me thinking about groundhogs, prairie dogs and other critters.

Groundhog Day has come and gone. The country’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow thus presumably presaging six more weeks of winter, at least over in Pennsylvania. Back here in eastern New Mexico and west Texas, Lubbock’s Prairie Dog Pete didn’t come out of his burrow on Feb. 2. Pete’s supporters say technically it means he didn’t see his shadow so our region will have an early spring. Most of us knew this anyway; it gets warmer here sooner than it does in Pennsylvania.

Have you ever seen a groundhog? They look like fatter prairie dogs. If I recall my zoology, the nearest close relative to the groundhog is the marmot of the Rocky Mountains.

Back east, groundhogs are all over the woods and fields. I was working in a place out in the country once and a groundhog came up on the building’s porch. I went to try and catch it but was warned off by others telling me “That groundhog’ll tear you up, boy.”

Songs have been written about groundhogs like the bluegrass tune titled “Groundhog,” complete with the lyrics “…yonder comes Jimmy with a 10-foot pole, twist that groundhog out of his hole,” “come on pappy get your gun, we got that groundhog on the run,” or the charming “…yonder comes Sallie with a snicker and a grin, groundhog grease all over her chin…”

I, too, have eaten groundhog. It was presented to me and I partook.

When I told this to my sweetheart she gave me one of those looks.

“That’s like eating a big rat,” she said.

“Not really,” I said. “They live out in the country so they eat seeds and shoots and stuff. They’re pretty tasty.”

I was working back east in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia when some customers showed up one day to share a veritable pupu platter of wild game they had “kilt.” There was groundhog, squirrel, rabbit, rattlesnake and turtle.

The groundhog was my favorite, sort of light and fresh. The squirrel and rabbit reminded me of chicken thigh meat. The rattlesnake tasted like a very firm fish and the turtle was like fried rubber. I got sick later that day. I don’t know what they fried it in but I’m sure it wasn’t Crisco.

Speaking of squirrels and eating wild game, driving home a few years ago I was the third of three vehicles going up a mountain road. The first car hit a squirrel. Poor thing rolled and tumbled and came to rest in the middle of the highway. The next vehicle was a pickup. The guy slowed down, opened his door, grabbed the squirrel by the tail and chucked it in his pickup bed.

“Waste not, want not,” I thought to myself.

Funny what your memory calls up when spring is in the air.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: blisscreeksw@yahoo.com