By February 2, 2018 2 Comments Read More →

Groundhog Day Revisited

dogAlmost everyone knows about Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog in a small Pennsylvania town who predicts the weather  each Spring.  If he sees his shadow, he runs back into his burrow for six more weeks of winter.

This centuries old tradition comes from German folklore that holds that many animals can predict the weather and that hedgehogs are the best.   Having very few wild hedgehogs in Pennsylvania, a groundhog sufficed.  It all started with a centuries old saying from European Christians :  If there were clear skies and sun on Candlemas Day (February 2), there was still cold weather to come. Actually, February 2 is  the mid-point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.

P.Phil is a recent addition to the traditions. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club of 1886 actually hunted and grilled groundhogs before promoting their prescience on the weather. This year, about 30,000 people will be on hand to see Phil emerge from his burrow and make his statement, and I’m sure all major networks will cover- probably as ” breaking news”.

P. Phil is not the only groundhog star.  There’s Chattanaooga Chuck (Tennessee), Maverne Mel (New York), Buckeye Chuck (Ohio), Dunkirk Dave (New York), Jimmy (Wisconsin), General Beau Lee (Atlanta), Shubenacadie Sam (Nova Scotia) and Chuck of NYC.

If you, like me, would not recognize a groundhog, consider this: 12-20 pounds, 20+ inches long, covered with coarse grayish hairs tipped with brown or sometimes dull red.  They have short ears, short legs, and short tail, but are very quick. They also have exceptionally strong jaws.  They hibernate fully, have a sharp little whistle, and have  4-9 babies in May.  Usually they live 6-8 years, but P.Phil has been drinking “groundhog punch” (a secret recipe).  One sip gives him 7 more years of life.

The groundhogs all speak to their mayors in groundhogese and relay their predictions.  Several mayors can vouch for the strong jaws as well as the quickness.   Mayor Bloomberg had a bad bite on his thumb in 2009 and wore industrial strength gloves the next year.  Major Bill de Blasio dropped his groundhog, Chuck, and it subsequently died.  Last year’s ceremony in Wisconsin resulted in a bad bite on the mayor’s ear (loved that video of the mayor’s stoicism as his ear was being chewed off), and then, later,  he reportedly chewed his way out his metal cage and is currently on the missing list.  His disappearance launched a community discussion on the ethicality of using a wild animal for such purposes. Suggestions were made to substitute a gerbil or someone in a groundhog costume.  And, anyway, it’s not easy capturing a wild groundhog and getting the appropriate state and federal licenses or buying one from a breeder with the appropriate import license.

P. Phil has used his position for political purposes.  In 1981, he wore a yellow ribbon for the hostages in Iran,  and during Prohibition, he made it known that the country was going to be in for 60 more years of winter if he wasn’t allowed a drink.

And, his effectiveness rating as a weatherman?

Mike Johnson, Vice-President of  Phil’s Inner Circle  said,
“Phil is not burdened with the necessity to be site-specific.”

Excuses used by his human colleagues as well.  Wonder if Bill Murray ever really met Phil?

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About the Author:

I am an observer of our interesting world , sharing my passions and my outrages, and thinking of Incredible Ben, his amazing blending of a social and civic life with superb common sense.

2 Comments on "Groundhog Day Revisited"

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  1. Betty FLeming says:

    What would the world be without authentic, clever, interesting writers such as Living Ben, a.k.a., dear beloved friend!

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