Bob Mitchell: Groundhog's shadow myth

Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Bob Mitchell Ozark Views & Comments

He did it. The rodent Groundhog had ample opportunity to see his shadow on Feb. 2. He had to come out a little later in the morning to dodge some rain showers that blew through the area, but undoubtedly did see his shadow.

One thing about this myth, as Bill Douglas noted recently: Even if he did see his shadow, denoting six more weeks of winter, that time frame would run right up to March 20, the first day of Spring.

But, as many Ozarkers can tell you from experience, it is not unusual for a late winter or early spring storm to come through this area, and some have been known to drop 24 inches of "snow flurries." Remember the crippling storm that brought National Guard assistance to open rural roads, provide generators for power dairy farmers and nearly shutdown the opening of Roaring River State Park one year?

Out-guessing weather

Many gardeners have been convinced it doesn't pay trying to out-guess Mother Nature on the weather, especially when it comes to planting early crops. There have been many years that replanting was necessary due to a cold wave coming through in late season and wiping out what had been put into the ground in anticipation of an early spring. For the most part we have come to believe in the practice of waiting until Mother's Day, which is in early May and well after any chance of a bad Easter storm.

There are two weather breeders that can nip gardens in these parts -- the Easter season arrival and the one when blackberry plants are in bloom. Either of these can result in firing up the tiller to work the soil and make another planting of whatever might have gone in the ground in hopes of holding early season bragging rights for a particular gardener.

Devices available

There are devices available that are intended to cheat on a drop in temperatures in gaining an edge with early planting. Drive up First Street, and just short of Emmanuel Baptist Church, look on the south side of the street for one example of this attempt.

Bob Mizer uses a cover for his tomato plants that contains water and is warmed by the sun sufficiently to keep them from freezing. It might do that, but his crop of the veggie wasn't any better than some and not as good as others. Although it must be admitted that there were a couple of messes that went across out table off of last year's vines.

80 years ago

Around the Ray house garage, at least eight decades ago, there were signs that cold weather was apparently welcomed more years ago than that. Hanging on the wall were pairs of strap-on ice skates that my mother often told of using in her childhood. Naturally there weren't any ice rinks around in those days, but there was always Flat Creek and a few ponds that would ice over thick enough to skate upon.

Mom always said the only problem the skaters might have was that a body of water on Flat Creek that was large enough was often the location that ice cutters would choose to get their chunks to put away for another day. The skaters would find the smoothest body of water they could to enjoy their sport.

I've often wondered what happened to those skates. It never dawned on any of the kids to keep them for whatever they might have been worth. They were like roller skates of those days, the type that took a key to fasten the grips on the front and then straps to secure ankles.

Finding a pond close to town and within reach by walking was another problem. There weren't federal funds available for digging ponds in those days.

Coldest remembered

Probably the coldest weather in my memory would have been not all that long ago. The time was in South Dakota when Jack Nickols and I had gone back for a second round of pheasant hunting, probably in December. There was about four inches of snow on the ground, so in most instances, the birds were in grass fields that were somewhat sheltered from the drifts that were considerably deeper.

We stayed at the Sioux Casino near Wagner, S.D., which was about the nicest accommodations in the area.

Both of my dogs seemed to enjoy the first couple of days and performed well, permitting us to take our limits both days. Then, the third day, a Blue Northerner came through and temperatures dropped fast, making that day extremely uncomfortable. There was no way to get out of the wind.

The next morning, while preparing for our departure, we discovered soda pop in a cooler in the back of the pickup had frozen and popped the cans at their seams. That was some mess to clean up.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.