The caretaker of the groundhog(s) is retiring from the job. He has a little farm with goats and chickens running around and a pen where the most recent Jimmy spends most of his time. There's a Gambian lady my Better Half is teaching to read, and she took her out there a time or two--the animals running around make it feel like home back in Africa to her.
The groundhogs are, I gather, mostly rescue beasts. They try to pick reasonably good-tempered ones to serve the office, but there's not always much choice. Jimmy IX could be safely put on a table--he’d been rescued after being run over, and still could only walk in circles. Apparently he was a very mellow critter.
We’ve been here a little over 20 years, and I’ve never gotten up to go watch Jimmy, nor have we tried to roust the kids for the “adventure”. (Although Jimmy IX visited their 4H club once.) I’m not sure if our absence represents a lack of civic enthusiasm or a dislike for getting up before dark in the cold.
Most of the time it's colder than hell or it's snowing or whatever. And the families bring their kids out. Everybody wants to see Jimmy and get a picture with Jimmy. It really brings the community together.
This is my fourth mayor now that I've worked with. I've told all of them don't get too darn close. You'll be able to understand him when he talks to you.
And they have their own language?
Groundhogese, yes. And the mayor of Sun Prairie is the only one that can really understand him.
What are Jimmy's living quarters like on your farm?
He's got it better than most of the animals here. In fact right now he's in the living room. And then as soon as it warms up enough he's got a big, 8-by-16 pen that he roams around in. And I go in and I'll spend a fair amount of time every day with him, trying to domesticate him, to be honest with you. I've done a pretty good job, but not necessarily this Jimmy the 11th. He's got a little bit of an attitude. Jimmy the 9th and 10th were absolutely amazing. But then I've had some that were more or less man eaters.
That last line was prophetic...