My grumpy meter ratchets up a notch this time of year.
Happens whenever I glance at the calendar and notice February is nigh. A nanosecond later, two questions invariably flash through my skull:
“What’n hell gives a rodent hundreds of miles away the ability to forecast weather anywhere in the country? And why’nhell does every news outlet from Nome to Key West feel obligated to report this astonishing prophecy?”
I speak of a certain Feb. 2 ritual in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. You know the drill.
Clad in a tuxedo and top hat, some politician or pillar of the community in Punxsu — third grumpy question: can anybody outside of that dang city write it correctly without continual spellcheck consultations? — taps on the door of a fake tree stump, reaches in and withdraws a groundhog named Phil, then holds it aloft with the same unbridled glee as the winning coach of the Super Bowl hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
If the sun happens to be shining at that moment, Phil sees his shadow (isn’t science amazing?!). This scares him (what a wuss), and he wishes to return to his burrow.The verdict? Six more weeks of winter weather.
Conversely, if skies are cloudy, Phil doesn’t see his shadow and isn’t frightened. Barney Fife would be proud.
The verdict? An early spring is nigh.
Panxsu-whatever Phil isn’t the only “official” weather groundhog. Just the one with the best agent and promotions budget.
There are lesser-known celebrity groundhogs all over the map. Readers Digest recently identified nearly a dozen. One is even a fellow Pennsylvanian: Grover the Groundhog in Pine Grove (a town with the decency to pronounce and spell its name easily.)
Some others, in no particular order: Dunkirk Dave and Staten Island Chuck in New York, Buckeye Chuck and Thistle the Whistle-pig in Ohio, General Beauregard Lee in Georgia, Chuckles IX in Connecticut, Jimmy the Groundhog in Wisconsin, Sir Walter Wally in North Carolina, Chattanooga Chuck in You Know Where and Pierre C. Shadeaux in Louisiana.
Jimmy and Pierre are my favorites.
In 2015, Jimmy took a chunk out of the ear of a mayor when Hizzoner “listened closely” for the forecast. And Pierre isn’t even a groundhog. He’s a nutria from Cajun marshes.Otherwise, bah! Forecast-schmorecast!
No matter what any of these rodents predict, Sam the Sourpuss says take this to the bank: Over the next six weeks, it will be hot, cold, warm, rainy, sunny, sleeting, humid, dreary, snowing, cloudy, muggy, hailing, balmy, frosty, windy and foggy.
Sometime. Somewhere. In one form or another.
Sam Venable’s column appears every Sunday. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Sam Venable: I’m going in whole-hog with weather gripes