Since late fall, a sense of incompleteness has hung over the Vassar campus. Something has been missing. It’s as if a hole has been burrowed into the student body, a hole just about the size of a small, furry bowling ball. But after a few cold months of longing, happy times lie ahead. The temperature is beginning to rise, students are sprawling out across the quad like communal desert lizards, and the snow which was never actually there in the first place is melting into continued nonexistence. These changes are merely signals of the most important feature of early springtime: the species known as Marmota monax once again waddles across the grounds of Vassar like the lovable, oversized squirrels they are. The womp womps are returning from their semesters abroad.
These rotund rodents come home to their burrows with many amazing stories of their JYA experiences. Punxsutawney Phil’s less famous cousin, Poughkeepsie Pam, had much to chatter about upon her homecoming, commenting, “The Costa Rica program was fantastic. Although our species typically can’t be found anywhere south of the meadows and woodlands of the United States, the tropics are a great place for a groundhog to be. Being the only womp womp in a diverse ecosystem of so many excitingly unfamiliar animals was a great learning experience. Also, I really loved the lack of shadows in Costa Rica. Have you seen those things? They always send six more weeks of chill down my spine.”
Pam’s friend, Chuck, is known for being the iconic model whose dashing good looks made him the posterboy for Vassar’s womp womp community. You may know him as the profile picture for the Vassar Missed Facebook page. Chuck, a Groundhog-Human Relations major, ventured out to New York City for his semester abroad. “Yeah, I know, it’s technically not ‘abroad’ by human standards if it’s in the same country,” confessed Chuck. “But when you consider the city’s physical differences with our burrow community, it’s basically another planet. Our underground tunnels are for living in, theirs are reserved for a fast food sandwich company called ‘the subway.’”
Cultural misunderstandings aside, Chuck is an effective communicator who works tirelessly to bridge the great species gap. Asked about his relationship with his fellow mammals who happen to be taller and less furry, Chuck stated, “I love working with humans. Sometimes I don’t. They’re like that distant relative, that second aunt twice removed, who loves you but sometimes says terrible things at the Thanksgiving dinner table, you know? I give humans credit for embracing us, but sometimes they pinch our collective cheek a little too hard. They gave us a traditional holiday and a great Bill Murray movie of the same name, but then they acted like those things completely define us. We’re not all scared of our shadow! Just look at our burrow’s punk and hardcore music collective, VC Punx-atawney. They host concerts in the shadows! And don’t even get me started on that godawful tongue-twister.” Chuck was referring to the saying, “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” He made sure to point out that the word “woodchuck,” one of the many synonyms for womp womp, actually derives from the Algonquian word “wuchak,” and therefore has nothing to do with either wood or the act of chucking. Chuck, whose name is taken from “woodchuck,” takes the etymology of that particular word very seriously, and asks that we do not dishonor it with that silly inquiry about the species’s potential lumber-throwing ability.
While the human race at large needs to work toward achieving complete comprehension of its “wood-chucking” friends, the humans of Vassar College share a special bond with their womp womp neighbors. The campus exhibits a sense of human-animal cooperation and love, the likes of which have not been seen since the Air Bud films. It’s only a matter of time before the womp womps are invited to participate in Vassar’s athletic programs, like that golden retriever was in the ’90s. Womp womps love golf courses, because they are known to be an “edge” species. Aside from them being super edgy and cool, this means that they like to hang out in areas where natural forests meet the vast, unnatural clearings caused by human activity. For this reason alone, womp womps would be a great addition to the golf team, that and their tendency to be the one in the hole, which is not far from a hole in one.
Clearly, womp womps are more than just a mascot. They are a chubby little piece of us and our identity as a college. Now that they have had the chance to get out and explore the world for a couple months, their happy return will put Vassar in high spirits. So gather up some acorns, practice your whistling (because they do that) and come on down to the burrow for best time of your approximately six- to eight-year life.