Officials can't find hide nor hair of groundhog

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By Stephen Thomas

SHEPHERDSVILLE – The Storm of 2009 caused local officials to hedge through the ice and tree limbs like hogs in hopes of guaranteeing an early Spring.

Warmer winter weather is determined, as everyone knows, by Bullitt County’s own official groundhog, Nichols Nick.

With possibly the worst overall storm damage in county history, officials hoped to guarantee better future weather by controlling the Nichols Nick forecast.

Nick, who lives in a hole in the ground in western Bullitt County, could not be contacted the week before Groundhog Day due to downed utility lines and blocked roadways. His hole, located on the other side of the Highway 44 hill, was not accessible.

With no communication, officials were at the potential mercy of finding out Nick’s forecast long after he proclaimed it.

“It’s our responsibility to see to it that our residents won’t have to suffer any longer,” said Bullitt County Judge/Executive Melanie Roberts. “Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, Bullitt County: they will be met. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless Bullitt County.”

Roberts allegedly scheduled a special meeting with leaders of Bullitt County emergency response units. Though closed to the public, an informant known only as “The Shadow” told this newspaper of the meeting’s events.

“(Roberts) told everyone that the number one priority at this time was to reach Nichols Nick,” claimed The Shadow. “Money was no option, power and heat to others came second. The county had to get to that groundhog and control his prediction.”

Roberts denied that such a discussion ever took place.

“That’s not the way we remember it... us, I mean, me and my shadow, my shadow and me,” said a nervous Roberts.

Emergency crews worked day and night to open access to the western end of the county, searching all farmlands, roadsides and creek beds for Nichols Nick’s official location (Nick moves each year for privacy reasons).

Despite the efforts, no sign of Nick was reported throughout the weekend.

Nichols Fire Chief W.D. Coy, a self-proclaimed expert on the inner workings of the groundhog, said he tried to alert Roberts on other ways to successfully locate a groundhog. To prove his expertise, Coy distributed hedgehog-skin caps to all emergency workers.

Coy said Roberts refused to heed his advice, though Roberts denied that she received any worthwhile information from the chief.

“You tell me, what does (Roberts) know about land beavers, seriously?” asked a frustrated Coy.

“I think ‘W.D.’ stands for ‘Wacky Dude’ or something,” Roberts said. “We’ve got our own surefire plans.”

“(Roberts) probably thinks that a marmota monax (Latin term for groundhog) is just a fancy laxative,” Coy responded. “All I know is, you put lipstick on a whistlepig, it’s still a whistlepig.”

Unofficial reports from The Shadow claimed Roberts’ last desperate attempt to locate Nick included a large tent with a widescreen television, extra heaters, veggie trays and large mugs of draft beer served by female owls. Emergency units then gathered at the tent for a Super Bowl party to lure Nick from the underground.

“We’ll turn the TV up louder during the commercials,” said Roberts. “Who can resist those Super Bowl commercials?”

Emergency units were reportedly upset when Roberts made them leave the tent after an alleged Nick sighting shortly before halftime.

“We didn’t even get to see (Bruce) Springsteen,” said disappointed Emergency Management director Mike Phillips.

To appease emergency crews for their extra efforts, Roberts promised to split her winnings on a bet she made last month - that the Arizona Cardinals would score a safety during the fourth quarter.

“I don’t mind sharing so much, and to be honest, I didn’t really comprehend the bet,” Roberts admitted. “All I really care about are the commercials. I liked the one with the two horses where the male went to the circus to rescue the female and someone says, ‘I didn’t know they were dating.’ Wasn’t that precious?”

When the game ended, there was still no sign of Nick. Roberts ordered officials to canvas the area throughout the night.

By Monday morning, Roberts again requested that officials canvas the western Bullitt area.

“We hunted the place all night long already,” Phillips argued.

“No, no, I mean literally canvas the area,” Roberts responded. “I want you to cover the place with a tarp so Nick can’t see his shadow.”

Meanwhile, this reporter received an anonymous call from someone allegedly working for Nichols Nick. The caller claimed Nick was hiding near the Pitts Point area, where his father, former Bullitt County groundhog Pitts Point Pete, used to reside.

According to the call, Nick left his alternate hole early Monday morning, and, in all fairness, did not see his shadow.

“I must warn you,” the voice said, “the day ain’t over yet.”

Upon sharing news of the call with officials, a slight celebration ensued, followed by all crews spreading throughout the county to assist damaged areas and residents without power.

Just prior to print, Nichols Nick visited The Pioneer News editorial offices, delivering his official proclamation as recorded at the offices of Punxsutawney Phil, the nation’s official groundhog soothsayer.

According to Nick’s proclamation, at 1:09 p.m. he indeed saw his shadow, guaranteeing six more weeks of winter weather for Bullitt County.

“I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em,” said the recently ridiculed rodent. “I’d be doing a disservice to the community had I done it any other way.”

Giving in to the recommendation of Bullitt County magistrates, Roberts has dropped a previous county award for the arrest, indictment, and possible warm gloves and stew making of Nichols Nick. She even pardoned the once-hated hedgehog on a positive note.

“Maybe he can use his celebrity to bring those cute horses to the area,” she said.