VIENNA, Va, February 1, 2014 — First there was Bill Murray and the popular movie “Groundhog Day.” Then there was Punxsutawney Phil at Gobbler’s Knob, PA, whose entourage included top-hatted gentlemen to pull him from his artificial burrow at the appropriate time.
Not to be left out of the show was the charming Gen. Beauregard Lee, a starring groundhog at the Yellow River Game Ranch in Lilburn, Ga., who even had a Southern mansion replete with columns and a dish receiver on his house. “Beau” as he is known to his friends, thrives on Waffle House hash browns and carrots and is rarely on a diet. He seems to enjoy his fans who come to see his appearance each February, and comes readily from his winter home “when he hears them calling his name,” said his PR person, Codi Reeves.
Medieval Times performers
Reeves added that they will have an added attraction for the General this year, as “we’re going to have the Atlanta-based Medieval Times theater group, with the 11th century characters of the king, knights, queen, pretty ladies and the like,” and the King will probably be the one to officially issue “Beau’s” weather prediction. These two varmints (meant kindly, of course) proceed to give almost identical weather prognostications every February 2, to the adoring fans who wait for their arrival each year.
There are groundhog hats, groundhog toys, even a cookie cutter to make groundhog cookies – nothing has been spared to spread the groundhog lore north and south. Where our two primary predictors, “Phil” in Pennsylvania and “Beau” in Georgia, have made predictions through the years, the odds appear to be in Beau’s corner. Beau out-guessed an early spring 60% to Phil’s 30% of the time ; and as to the Atlanta weather in particular, Beau was again correct with 50% while Phil managed 40%.
The defense rests!
It all began with hibernation:
Even though the national weather agency (known one year for a prediction of no snow while residents got 5” of “partly cloudy”) says there is no validity in the groundhog seeing or not seeing his or her shadow resulting in the early arrival of spring, it takes only a few ounces of common sense to belie that assertion. Bears, groundhogs and some other mammals routinely hibernate each winter, and routinely somehow know how to come out when spring begins to approach. So much for NOAA. Even Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, could not stand being left out and promptly got a very faux stuffed groundhog to try and keep up. There was no contention, he wasn’t even alive and the attempt failed miserably though they swear they will have the real Bill Murray here at Dupont Circle Park’s festival this year.
No growls but tweets:
Enter the appearance of some dozen or so additional groundhog counterparts from north to south, each as theoretically capable of predicting the arrival of spring as the two main contenders, Phil (@#GroundhogPhil) and Beau,(@#ghdbeau.) Even modern day groundhogs must have a twitter account, it seems. House Bill H2864 has not been addressed yet, but it would make Massachusett’s “Ms. G.” the official State Groundhog of the Old Bay State, led by a TV meteorologist, Mish Michaels. MS. G. resides at the Drumlin Farm, an animal sanctuary in Lincoln, Mass.
“Buckeye Chuck” who resides in Marion, Ohio has been handling the Groundhog Day duties since the 1970s, which would make him 44 and the oldest groundhog in captivity. (Average lifespan is approximately eight-15 years.) “Malverne Mel” (like Laverne only different) holds court in Malverne, NY and has extremely pretty coloring. Then there is “Jimmy the Groundhog,” he of extremely hefty incisors, located in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin and said to be only understood by Sun Prairie’s mayor, “who speaks groundhogese.”
A “prima donna” groundhog
Again on the distaff side is “Woody” of Howell, Michigan, whose trainers describe her as a real “prima donna, but that’s what you get for messing with her beauty sleep.” Like “Beau” in Georgia, “Chattanooga Chuck” is another Southerner, and has a charming demeanor. Understandably, she has her own twitter account and a FaceBook page, and is based at the Tennessee Aquarium.
With @#ChattNoogaChuck, you can add to her 502 followers! For those of you among the uninitiated, this fairly ancient day has its roots in the idea that 40 days after Christmas and 40 days before Easter was the traditional beginning of spring. When that met the Christian symbolic day of Candlemas, a new day was born. Again, bears came out of hibernation, and groundhogs did likewise.
Canada duo Interestingly enough, there are several in our northern neighbor. “Wiarton Willie” in Ontario is a beautiful snow white, albino groundhog, who fortunately can easily hide in the snow. He is a picture of rodentia grace and beauty. And Nova Scotia has its own pet groundhog with his own festival as well, “Shubenacadie Sam” who has a home similar to “Beau” in which to spend his hibernating weeks. No information as to their twitter (should it be “chatter”?) accounts was forthcoming but thanks to a cousin up that way for the Canadian information. Poetry even acknowledged the day: in an old English poem, it says:
If Candlemas be fair and bright, Winter has another flight.
If Candelmas brings clouds and rain, Winter will not come again.
And in Scotland they learned:
If Candle-Mas Day is bright and clear,
There’ll be two winters in the year.
So regardless of what part of the country is involved, all eyes will be on the nearest groundhog at dawn on February 2, for the best idea of when Spring will come. If we could find an animal who could predict the winner of the Super Bowl game which will be held a little later on the same February 2 date this year, someone would make a lot of money.
Until then, save me a groundhog cookie, please!
Read more of Martha’s columns at The Civil War at Communities Digital News. Follow her on Face Book or LinkedIn at Martha Boltz, and by email at [email protected] This article is the copy written property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media.