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One state lawmaker's short-lived quest to annihilate every single groundhog in Texas

 A brown groundhog stands in grass.
April King via Wikipedia

This story was originally published on Feb. 3, 2016.

Another Groundhog Day has come and gone and, despite the predictable smattering of Bill Murray-related memes, there’s not much solace in the promise of an early spring in a state like Texas. The state has its own version of the holiday based right here in Central Texas and, as one Waco writer put, “the groundhog knows no more about the weather than a man who has only been in Texas two days.”

But, in 1949, one Texas lawmaker had a “simple resolution” for the problem of Groundhog Day: murder all of the groundhogs.

 An excerpt from the House Journal. Black text on a white background.
Zivley's resolution from the House Journal of the 51st Legislature.

The proposal was put forth by Rep. Lamar A. Zivley in 1949 during the legislative session. In an effort to stem the “much unhappiness and woe” associated with the holiday, Zivley put forth H.S.R. 37, which sought to encourage Texans to take up arms against the ground-dwelling oppressors:

“[W]e urge our friends in Texas to arm themselves with proper and sufficient equipment, baseball bats and otherwise, to prevent this infamous creature from coming out of his hole and causing further distress and suffering to the people of our State, especially in Central Texas.”

The representative’s tongue-in-cheek resolution was, and still is, nothing new in the lower house of the state’s legislature – one lawmaker infamously laid out a resolution honoring the Boston Strangler in 1971.

Given that Zivley’s bill also called on the State of Texas to support the statewide expansion of the Temple-based “Ground Hog Beaters Association,” it was a fairly bald-faced bit of satire.

But Kaufman-based Rep. Phillip L. Willis saw the joke as an affront to House procedure, according to a Statesman article on the affair.

“This sort of thing is just encouraging more costs,” Willis said, referring to the already $100,000 in state costs since the legislature gaveled in a month before.

“I appreciate your feelings on the economy,” Zivley retorted. “But I’d appreciate it if the House would pass this resolution and end this business.”

Willis snapped back, calling Zivley’s business “monkey business.”

“If we cut out all the monkey business here, we’d be through in 60 days,” Zivley quipped back.

Inexplicably, Willis’ motion to table was a closely contested vote, ultimately passing.

After the row, Zivley revealed that the editor of The Temple Telegram, Harry Blanding, Jr., enlisted him to introduce the resolution.

The Statesman’s Fred Williams attempted to contact Blanding, but had no luck.

“[T]he editor was still in bed,” Williams wrote. “Evidently not wanting to come out and see his shadow either.”

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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