Here we are again, at the day on which we learn about our near future, meteorologically speaking of course. On this 33rd day of the year Punxsutawney Phil evaluates his environment and, to a degree, plans our lives for the next few months.
For about 120 years or so, Mr. Phil has favored us with the wisdom of his experience - for better or for worse. He hides out in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (NE of Pittsburgh, NW of Altoona, NNW of Johnstown, pop. c. 6,000) and predicts six more weeks of winter if he sees his shadow, or an early spring if he does not see his shadow. Out of 114 prognostications, he has said/shown/indicated more winter seven out of eight times [including 2010}. His scorecard? According to the PGCIC (Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle) he has been correct 100% of the time! According to the Weather Almanac, he comes in at about 39% for being on the mark. I'm not sure how his wife, Phyllis, feels about his low rating - maybe he wants to run for President - of something - or of someplace.
His cousins abound throughout the continent - for example there's "Buckeye Chuck" from Marion, OH (50 mi. N of Columbus, pop. c. 35,000) who predicts an early Spring, and "Balzak Billy", living in Balzak, Alberta (just N of Calgary, W of Rtes. 2 and 566) -hasn't reported in, not to mention "General Beauregard Lee" of Lilburn, GA (on the NE edge of metro Atlanta, pop. c. 12,000) who predicts an early Spring.
Quarryville, PA (SE of Lancaster, W of Philly, pop. c. 2,000) has its own "Octorara Orphie" as a personal identifier of seasonal drifts - sorry, no report, and what of "Brandon Bob" , Brandon, Manitoba (130 mi. W of Winnipeg, pop.c. 39,000), a helper in the Prarie Provinces (alas, no report), then "Shubenacadie Sam" (Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, NE of Halifax, SW of Truro) tells us its going to be an early Spring.
The festivities last Saturday featuring "Two River Tunnel" (Marion Bridge, Nova Scotia - S of Sydney, Cape Breton) were canceled due to inclement weather; they forward the idea that Tunnel probably would not have seen his shadow, hence we will have an early Spring.
Down the Atlantic coast, we could meet "Malverne Mel" in western Long Island (Malverne - N of E. Rockaway, NE of Valley Stream, pop. c. 9,000) who predicts that (at least) six more weeks of winter are left; gliding over, we might see "Staten Island Chuck", whose real name is Charles G. Hogg. They credit him with being 80% correct since he started in the 1980's. He's been doing well - except for biting the finger of Mayor Michael Bloomberg last year. He (the Mayor) was back at the S. I. Zoo for the challenge again this year and held the prognosticator (with heavy leather gloves) as we were told to look for an early Spring.
"Woody", [no middle initial] (in Howell, between Lansing and Detroit, MI) also predicts an early Spring. Hopping over the northern border in a figurative manner, we'll stop first at Kleinburg, Ontario (uninc. community of Vaughan, N of Toronto, off Rte. 400, near the Boyd Conservation Area and home of former Prime Minister Lester Pearson, pop. c. 1,000) to meet "Gary the Groundhog". Gary couldn't share with us today as he was having breakfast with the great-grandson of the P.M.
Well, moving on NW of Toronto, we come to the Georgian Bay region - and Party Headquarters for Prognosticators- and home to "Wiarton Willie" (Wiarton, Ontario, SW area of Georgian Bay, pop. c. 2,300), where the time is considered a Festival - dances, parades, hockey tournaments, curling, pancake breakfasts, sleigh rides, etc. The emphasis began in the mid-1950's and brought along Willie in the '80's. His descendants are noted as Wee Willie, Wee Willie II, and on. Early names for representatives were - Grundoon, Muldoon and Sand Dune, revealing a certain approach to the activities. The people feel they (and Willie) are best situated for rendering a judgment on the future as they are on the 45th parallel, equidestant between the North Pole and the Equator. It must count for something. Locally, Willie's 90% correct; scientifically - they say 37%. Who ya gonna buhleve?
I'm sure you've heard of "Arizona Abner" - unfortunate - he was buried alive under a K-Mart parking lot. Now that means seven years of summers are expected for the whole state of AZ!
Dribs and Drabs - Today is also considered Candlemas Day, the fortieth day of Mary's purification following the birth of Christ. In some quarters there is much ado regarding this celebration. Some lines from Candlemas deal with the proposed seasonal variations:
"If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again."
Words about Phil and his like:
short - ears, legs, tail, but quick
strong jaws (right, Mike?)
can whistle when alarmed
young are called kits or cubs
longevity - 6 to 8 years in the wild, 12 or so if sheltered
a staple in many areas in the 1930's Depression era