“Happy Woodchuck Day?”

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In the United States today is celebrated as Groundhog Day. The story goes that if the groundhog sees his shadow on February 2 there will be six more weeks of winter. If the groundhog fails to see his shadow on February 2 there will be an early spring. I have a couple of problems with this method of prognostication. First, it is counter intuitive, so no one can remember which forecasts which. I think this is because it would seem logical that seeing his shadow would mean the sun was shining, predicting an early spring. Clouds would indicate that winter will drag on. But in the custom it is the reverse. Secondly, no matter what the groundhog sees, winter in New England will go on for at least six more weeks. Spring doesn’t arrive here until  April–eight weeks out.

For some reason “groundhog” seems to engender warm fuzzy feelings from the weather casters. But even a quick glance at any pictures of “Chuckles,” our local groundhog, shows the handler wearing thick gloves. And those teeth look none too friendly.

I decided to rename February 2, “Woodchuck Day.” That would elicit the appropriate groans all around. No one who lives in New England feels warm and fuzzy towards woodchucks. They devour everything in sight, dig holes under out buildings and waddle in front of cars. Those groans would be especially apt at the start of February here. The month marks the beginning of another long stretch of cold days. Don’t let the rodent fool you. Spring is still a long way away.

21 thoughts on ““Happy Woodchuck Day?”

  1. I think what threw me as a kid was the counter-intuitive prognostication that you described. For fun, I used to have my students learn the “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” phrase, as well as the “How much ground, could a groundhog grind if a groundhog could grind ground?” saying. If they mastered those, then I’d see if they could learn the appropriate response to the tongue twisters. (The groundhog one is much harder.)

    I forget what company it is for, but have you seen the ads on television lately that have an actor yelling at woodchucks about chucking wood? They’re pretty funny.

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  2. I never understood the groundhog weather prediction thing. All I know is that we finally have sunshine here after an inordinate amount of rain for too many days in a row! I’ll enjoy it while I can! 🙂

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  3. We got a bright and sunny day here in central Illinois, and spring has been trying to come in January instead of mid-March like it usually does. Hopefully we’ll have some more seasonal weather so the perennials don’t get too excited too early.

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  4. We don’t have groundhogs or woodchucks here, so for that reason I would like to see a real one. But I sympathise about the destruction they cause. We have that here with moles. They look cute, but what they do makes me try to kill them.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  5. I suppose the nearest thing we have is squirrels, which are technically vermin but kinda cute. Maybe it’s their oval eyes or bushy tails, or the fact they spend most of their time off the ground in trees, but I can’t think of them as ratlike rodents.
    I rather like the idea of a ‘squirrel’ day but doubt it would be more effective than St Swithin’s Day for weather forecasting. Perhaps a day for making jam and pickles or freezing summer produce in preparation for the winter.

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    1. I didn’t realize you had a parallel day for forecasting. I have lately been admiring one squirrel trying without success to get seed out of a squirrel proof feeder. By the way, I am still with your manuscript.

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      1. the theory is that if it rains on St Swithin’s Day (July 15th) it will rain for the next forty days. In the UK that’s a fairly safe bet anyway.
        Thanks for reading Pond People. I’m frantically editing like one of those cartoons where the character is building a bridge while the ground is falling away behind him. Then I change something and re-edit earlier episodes to add the change before it’s scheduled to be published.

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