Thursday, February 13, 2003
Punxsutawney Phil Critter, Varmint
February 2, 2003 (Punxsutawney, PA) - They arrived in droves. They set up tents. They cooked on small fires, drank beer, and waited in anticipation for one short moment. Would the now almost world-famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, see his shadow, heralding six more weeks of winter?
While all the world looked to Punxsutawney, PA for this outcome, one man remained skeptical. Vietnam Veteran and assistant groundskeeper of local Bushwood Country Club, Carl Spackler.
“Yeah, well, you know, I hate those little varmints. To kill, you must know your enemy, and in this case my enemy is a varmint. And a varmint will never quit – ever. They’re like the Viet Cong – Varmint Cong. So you have to fall back on superior intelligence and superior firepower,” said Spackler, dressed in camouflage, small tree branches sticking out of his helmet and vest, and wielding a rifle.
The crowd slowly gathered. Spackler and a few other locals stood around, drinking canned beer still in their plastic rings. They commented mostly on the attractive women who came out for the event. However, now and then, the topic of the groundhog would come up, to the distaste of the small group.
Spackler said that he was told by Head-groundskeeper, Scottsman, Sandy McFiddish, to kill all the golfers. “So I said,” he explained, “‘Correct me if I’m wrong, Sandy, but if I kill all the golfers they’ll lock me up and throw away the key.’ Then I realized he meant gophers. Gophers! Lousy critters.”
And so, Carl Spackler’s hatred of what he calls “critters” or “varmints” began.
“I got to get into this dude’s pelt and crawl around for a few days,” said Spackler, looking at the swelling crowd and holding two clay animals. “Who's the gopher’s ally? His friends? The harmless squirrel and the friendly rabbit.”
As the sun began to rise over the small town of Punxsutawney, PA, the master of ceremonies prepared to draw the groundhog from his hole. Spackler loaded his rifle and began to take aim at the stage where Phil would make his appearance.
“I smell varmint poontang,” said Spackler.