Bob Mitchell: Groundhog’s predictions

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Whatever moved civilization to rely on a varmint like the groundhog to get into the weather prediction business?

Sources tell us the tradition began in Europe centuries ago, when it was a practice for church people to issue candles to people, that would burn through the winter, lasting until better spring weather would be upon them. This way of thinking lasted for however long, until suddenly the appearance of an animal — probably a European Hedge Hog — coming out of his den to test the weather, would either see or fail to see his shadow.

Then came the 1887 era when those of German decent began coming to Pennsylvania, and they decided to continue the appearance of a varmint that might have been awakened in his den, coming out to check the weather. Whether he saw his shadow was an indication of what was in the future for weather in their particular area.

Puxatony Phil

The location of this event, having shifted from Europe to the USA, was in Puxatony, Penn., which is the site of today’s concentration of news coverage concerning the groundhog emerging to see what is going on around him. While this location can have absolutely nothing to do with weather in this area, the tradition has traveled west to reach to the far extremes of the country.

The arrival of Feb. 2 in modern times has even attracted a notation on calendars that this particular day is actually Groundhog Day and should be observed wherever a den can be in sight to seize upon the opportunity of gauging what is in the future.

Results have varied

Over the decades, so far as memory allows, results of predicting the coming of spring on the appearance of a groundhog and relation to the sun being shining or it being cloudy, has been assorted. Supposedly, if the groundhog — whose survival in some instances has to be related to some intelligence — views his shadow on his exit out of the ground, there will be six more weeks of winter.

For some folks, there is a willingness to transcribe the incident in their own way of thinking, in an anxious manner to get out of winter weather. Then there are always those who are so anxious to be the first to get their gardens planted, they will interrupt whatever sighting that might come their way as an indicator of more acceptable temperatures.

Tomorrow’s the day

Whatever way you might choose to take the happenings on Groundhog Day 2017 will be a personal choice, and might vary from community to community, as clouds might move through a particular area. Like those early gardeners who might choose to ignore a shadow sighting by the dweller of a hole in a creek bank or out in the edge of a field, and then experience a second planting of his veggies, that is just the name of the game.

On the other hand, if those planters will just be patient from this Thursday on, they could well find their investment in seeds and plants would be much wiser used than being first and foremost in getting a garden in the ground.

It’s been about 130 years since the American Groundhog as been used as a weather predictor. Over the past 129 years, an early spring has been predicted 18 times. According to Stormfax, the groundhog’s predictions have only proven correct 39 percent of the time.

We’ll all just have to go along with our beliefs, one way or the other, as long as the groundhogs escape those who want to get them out of their dens or creek banks.

Almanac predictions

According to weather predictions in the Almanac, those of us who are not much in favor of February would have our reasons, since at least the first two weeks of the month don’t provide much good weather for this part of the country.

There are near record low temperatures for some regions of the country and a suggestion that folks might want to “huddle up” if they happen to celebrate Mardi Gras near the Gulf Coast.

But, there are only 27 days remaining before fly rod reels need to have the lines dressed, some hooks need to be sharpened, until Jim and Carman Rogers open the doors at Roaring River State Park for the 2017 Rainbow Trout season!

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.,/em>

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