Those of you still with me, you might want to sit down.
Is everyone ready? Then here we go.
The groundhog who “predicts” if winter will end soon or drag on for another six weeks does NOT come out of his hibernation annually on February 2nd for that reason. No, the male emerges from his hidey-hole to mate. Yup, he’s had a nice long nap and now he’s looking for some fun. It’s that simple.
So from whence did this vernal misconstrual come?
February 2, 1987 is considered the first official Groundhog Day in the United States. It happened at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Anyone who’s ever graduated 3rd grade is familiar with the lore…if the groundhog sees his shadow, it scares him and he scurries back to his den. Six more weeks of winter ensues. If, on the other hand, it’s a cloudy day, then no shadow, and the groundhog will stay above ground, signaling an early arrival of spring. Yeah, it all depends on the weather the morning of February 2. Not exactly scientific.
And here’s the other spoiler…the “official” rodent weather prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, is only 39% accurate in his prediction. That means he’s wrong more than he’s right. But still, anytime he sticks around above ground we all break out the gardening tools and pour over the gardening catalogs in earnest, because Phil has proclaimed that spring has arrived!
Here in Southeastern Virginia we take our cue from Chesapeake Chuck. He is a groundhog (also known as a woodchuck or a whistle pig—so named for the way the animal whistles when frightened or looking for food) that resides at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, Virginia. I can’t find the stats on him, but I do know in 2015 he predicted an early spring, and we had one of the snowiest February’s I can recall.
But unlike Phil, ol’ Chuck has more than one trick in his grand top hat. In addition to predicting the weather, he also foretells the winner of the Super Bowl. Two identical plates of nuts and berries are placed in front of posters of the two contenders. In 2015, Chuck went straight for the Patriots. You can be sure I’ll be checking on Chesapeake Chuck to see how accurate his predictions are. I’m hoping for a Carolina win (closest team to southeastern Virginia…) and that Chuck runs back into his hole. Only then I can run to the local garden store and stock up on Shasta daisies! Here’s hoping for an early spring!