Hello Fellow Readers,
As the folklore goes if the groundhog sees his shadow, they’ll be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, it will be an early spring. I’ve always wondered how we know what the groundhog sees. Low and behold I saw this year’s broadcast of Groundhog Day at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, PA. It’s the first time I’ve seen the festivities and admit it would fun to attend. Given it’s only a four-hour drive west of here, why not put it on the bucket list.
Precisely at 7:30 AM a group of men formally dressed in top hats convene around a tree trunk. “Good morning ladies and gentlemen it is time.” The crowd ignites with hooting and hollering, the stage men are silent. Two handlers duck down, their backs to the crowd, and take the furry fellow from his den and hand, Punxsutawney Phil, to another who brushes off the straw while holding him in his arms much like a domestic cat. Then, he lifts him high to the crowd as a Heisman Trophy bringing a roar of excitement and applause. He seemed tame and enthralled with the attention, though the handlers were wearing protective gloves to match their black suits adorned with rose boutonnieres. I thought maybe he’s a pet, which turns out to be true. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club takes care of Phil year-round. With an average life expectancy of a Marmota monax (also known as a woodchuck) being less than six years, there’s likely been over twenty-two Punxsutawney Phil’s to-date.
“Okay Phil we have to get serious here buddy,” said the handler who places him on top of the tree trunk next to the judge.
“Look me in the eye,” the judge said. A long pause as the crowd grew silent.“We have a prediction.”
Another gentleman unrolls a scroll, “Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye now on the second day of February 2019, the 133rd annual trek of The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.” He goes on to recite a silly poem that closes with, “But predicting the winter, that’s my song, and for 133 years I’ve never been wrong.” Then comes the prediction. “Faithful followers there is no shadow of me, a beautiful (early) spring it shall be!”
The thing is Punxsutawney Phil is more often wrong than right reports LiveScience.com based on Storm-fax Almanac’s data. “Which shows that Phil’s six-week prognostications have been correct about 39 percent of the time.” The article goes on to say, “From 1969 on, Phil’s overall accuracy rate drops to about 36 percent,” per Tim Roche, a meteorologist at Weather Underground who checked the predictions against actual weather outcomes.
Still, Groundhog Day is a fun tradition and whenever it comes, Spring is something to celebrate. Though not so much the garden damage caused by groundhogs, as cute as they can be. Garden Dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com
Previous columns you’ll enjoy:
How to remedy Ground HOGS!
And one themed around my neighbor who wrote “Help! A woodchuck is eating my trees.” Is it a Beaver or Woodchuck?