I think I like these groundhogs


Let’s get this whole thing understood from the beginning… these people celebrating groundhogs as prognosticators of winter… they are different than you and I. Perhaps best summed up best by the old cliché “ignorance is bliss,” I had lived under the assumption that only in Pennsylvania would thousands upon thousands of people plan a celebration of winter in February. I was wrong. They do celebrate with Punxsutawney Phil of Gobbler’s Knob, Pennsylvania. They also celebrate with Buckeye Chuck in Marion, Ohio. And it goes way, way, way beyond these big two. They celebrate with groundhogs and… according to at least one internet site… they celebrate with chickens and llamas.

But back to the groundhogs. I used to approach the annual festivities and swear up and down that no groundhog was going to tell me I had to endure six more weeks of winter. But as I’ve learned more about them, I kind of like these animals. They hate the cold, and near as I can tell would prefer you just left them alone to sleep on February 2nd each year. Chances are they really have no desire to predict six more weeks of winter, and actually would be grateful if you did bother some llama with the question. I don’t know why, but that was somewhat comforting when the conflicting reports began to come in…

Punxsutawney Phil… did see his shadow.
Buckeye Chuck… did not see his shadow.
Chuck Wood, Sherman Oaks, California… no shadow.
Dunkirk Dave, Dunkirk, New York… shadow.
Sir Walter Wally, Raleigh, North Carolina… shadow.
Staten Island Chuck, Staten Island, New York… no shadow.

And the list goes on, with answers adding up in both columns.

I suppose there isn’t that much difference between a groundhog and most real weathermen… I mean, umm… weatherpersons. We complain about the accuracy in the paper, on television and while surfing the web. Why should I judge the groundhogs on their accuracy alone?

Personally, I question the sanity and decision making ability of any creature in early February. The brain is frozen, clear thought is not an option. I have a hard enough time outside in February using my car keys, never mind the added pressure of deciding what the weather will be like in six weeks based on if I like the way my shadow looks.

Then it occurred to me… How much does the groundhog get paid? What’s Phil’s incentive in this whole thing? Does anyone that celebrates the day even care what he says, or is it just another reason to party, and hey, if it snows again or doesn’t, who cares? Because some of us do take this threat of extra winter seriously. I’m just wondering if Phil, Chuck, or the party-goers do as well.

A few years ago a friend of mine and I debated starting a tradition in the northeast with some cute little brown bear, one that hibernated until say, Memorial Day. We decided the heck with it, let’s just extend winter until the end of May each year. Then on the holiday Monday, the bear wakes up and leaves his cave. If it’s raining and cloudy, or below 50 degrees, he goes back in to sleep, spring is cancelled, and summer begins around July 1st. If it’s 80 degrees out and he tries to steal some food from a holiday barbecue, we celebrate four weeks of spring and start summer in late June.

When it comes to this predictions thing for an extra six weeks though, the overall odds apparently aren’t that hideous. I seem to recall reading once that if measured out, Phil has seen his shadow roughly 15 times in over 100 years. Bad weather comes when’s he’s scared, or when he “sees” his shadow. So, a 15% chance of more winter? I guess I’m willing to like the little fellow if he is willing to lie to me 85% of the time and tell me it’s going to warmer soon.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com