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Once upon a groundhog

Six more weeks of winter? Or are the colors of spring right around the corner? It seems forever that we have depended on our brother, the groundhog, for this answer every February. Have you ever wondered how it all began? Well, there is fact and there is fiction; and then there is this little story. You decide.

Groundhog, being a busy and happy little fellow, spent most of his day eating berries and lying around sunning his body on a rock. When the moon came out at night he would lumber into his nest in an old, rotted tree. Life was good.

Groundhog had no worries until he heard the earth shake one day. The ground shook so hard he fell off the rock upon which he was sunning himself. He ran as fast as his four little feet could take him and hid in a thicket of bushes. His little eyes peered out, desperately trying to see what was making the ground shake. Try as he might, he could not see anything.

After a while, Groundhog found himself getting really hungry. His growling stomach was getting scarier than the ground shaking, so out he crept.

After eating his fill, he quickly forgot his fear of the shaking ground. With a full belly, sleep was all that was on his mind; and he slept. As the sun peeked in on the sleeping Groundhog, he awoke and forgot the day before. As usual he awoke hungry, so off he went to his favorite berry bush and started eating. He knew that soon the cold would be coming, so to feast on such a fine berry bush was the only thing on his mind - until he felt the ground shaking again.

With every shake beneath his feet he heard a faint boom, and little by little it became louder. Boom, boom, BOOM!

By now, Groundhog was more afraid than ever. He had started running to his safe home when all of a sudden he saw a big shadow that seemed to go on forever. Along with the shadow came a big foot! He covered his head and closed his eyes. He felt sure this was his end. But to his surprise and relief, the big foot just missed him.

''Hey, you up there!'' he yelled in his biggest voice. ''Your big foot almost mashed me! Hey, big foot person, do you hear me?''

The towering being looked down at Groundhog and said, ''I did not see you down there. I mean you no harm. Are you all right?''

Groundhog replied, ''I am; but I live here, and it seems to me you have been thumping around here quite often. I am afraid one day you might thump by and squash me, and that will be the end of me. What is your name, anyway?''

The huge being stood quietly, then replied, ''I haven't a name.''

''We will fix that,'' the Groundhog yelled up. ''I will call you Big Foot. Is that all right with you?''

''Why, yes,'' the being answered. ''I like that name.''

''We will have to think of a way we can live together without me ending up under those big feet,'' Groundhog answered.

They sat and thought and they thought. ''I know, I know,'' Groundhog yelled out. ''I will make my home underground. I will be closer to all the juicy roots, and in the evening I will come out for a bit to gather whatever else I might be hungry for. Does that seem fair

to you?''

Big Foot replied, ''Yes, that sounds like a great idea. I will try to do my walking deep in the forest at night. That way I know I won't squash you.''

Groundhog answered, ''Now that our arrangement is settled, Big Foot do you think you could move? Your shadow is covering me and has kept the warm sun from warming me. It feels like winter!''

Big Foot understood and bid his new friend goodbye. Groundhog went to work digging in the ground and making burrows everywhere.

He rather liked the new arrangement, but ... he is known to peep out of his burrow just to make sure he sees no shadow. You never know.

Happy Groundhog Day! Lim Lim.

Ken ''Rainbow Cougar'' Edwards, from the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington state, is an accomplished painter and storyteller. Edwards is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., and a longtime cartoonist for Indian Country Today.