At least it won’t need a tombstone

A couple of weeks ago, in an addendum to a column about animals, I asked readers to be careful when driving on Passaic Ave. in Kearny because the groundhogs in the riverside park were grazing dangerously close to the roadway as they fattened up for winter. I had already seen one flattened in the street.
Last Monday morning, sure enough, I spotted a particularly plump one sitting practically atop the curb near South Midland Ave. It was oblivious to the passing cars as it fed.
The next time I passed by, there it was again, in precisely the same place.
It was there on Wednesday and Thursday, too.
There must be some especially tasty grass in that spot, I thought.
There’s nowhere to pull over and stop on that stretch of Passaic, so when I saw it again Friday, I just slowed down to try to get a closer look.
It was not moving and seemed tilted over a bit. And then I realized: It must be dead.
Do groundhogs die sitting upright, perhaps of heart attacks or strokes? Did some motorist hit it and put the corpse on the curb? (People do strange things.)
When I got to The Observer office, I called the town DPW to report the deceased creature and warn them that if it were not soon removed, passing drivers would get a graphic lesson in decomposition.
It was a township furlough day and there was no one to take my call. (Luckily.)
Heading home on Friday, I decided to take South Midland to Passaic to again check out the situation. It was the first time I had viewed the scene from the northbound direction, and something did not look quite right. Had the groundhog’s head fallen off? Or . . . ?
When I was driving into town on Sunday, I tried to get another look, but snow covered the site.
Later that day, I stopped into the Irish Quality Shop to chat with proprietor Maggie Millar, and I mentioned the groundhog. And the suspicions I had developed. Which she confirmed.
She knew exactly what I was talking about and exactly where the “animal” was, for she had seen it many times.
It was not a dead groundhog at all.
It was a pair of rocks.
For a week, I had been worrying about the well-being of rocks.
And I wasn’t even stoned.
— Karen Zautyk

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