Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Look Who's Been Drinking the Punch

Punxsutawney Phil

Well the word is out:  Spring will be early this year.  And how do we know this?  A groundhog told us.  I've been doing a bit of research on this little hairy guy named Phil who lives in a tiny little place called Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  He's been doing this for 115 years now, and he's only predicted an early spring 15 times.  Hmmm.  I'm pretty sure that doesn't make him very popular with those of us who live near  the arctic circle.  Alright.  That might be a bit of an exaggeration.  But let's face it.  This has been a brutal winter thus far for a lot of folks, and we will grasp at any glimmer of hope we can. 


Part of the Inner circle
Now back to Phil.  Of all those century plus predictions he's made, he's only been right 39 percent of the time.  Makes you wonder doesn't it?  Actually, I think it's some kind of cult that has millions brainwashed.  For example, do you know that there is an Inner circle of 14 members, and only they can determine what Phil's prediction is?   After all, we don't all speak Groundhogese.  That privilege goes to the President of the Inner circle  who Phil talks to.  And do you realize that the same groundhog has been around for all these many years?  He's lived twice as long as I have!  Well, it turns out that this "Inner circle" has discovered the fountain of youth or something like that.  Every seven years in the early part of summer he's fed a sip of Groundhog Punch which lengthens his lifespan by seven more years.  That's pretty extraordinary for a little brown ball of fur that doesn't usually make it past his sixth birthday.  Actually, I think that number would be higher if he'd stay away from the  road.   But that's besides the point.

The President of the Inner circle speaking Groundhogese with Phil
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A couple of summers ago we were traveling from Buffalo to Maryland.  I noticed on the map that we'd only be an hour or so from Punxsutawney.  I suggested to Larry that it might be kind of fun to take a side trip.  After all, who knew when we might be that close again to such a famous place.  Several years ago while traveling from Colorado we decided to go see Mount Rushmore.  That was approximately six hours out of our way, so what was a measly 60 minutes?  Besides, what was seeing some dead presidents carved into a mountain compared to seeing a groundhog that could predict weather?

Back to Punxsutawney.  Let me tell you just a bit about this city.  I mean town.  I mean...oh whatever it is.  This  place has a population of about six thousand people.  It's pleasant enough, but all in all it's pretty average.  Well,  that is except for the groundhog statues everywhere.  If you want something to aesthetically improve your village why not put up some of those pretty pole lamps?  They look great at Christmas with the lights strung.  But how do you string lights on a groundhog and have anyone take you seriously?  Why take a groundhog seriously at all?

Just one of the groundhog statues that graces Punxsutawney

Back to Phil.  We had come all the way to Punxsutawney to see him,  so we inquired of someone where he could be found.  I assumed he would be at Gobbler's Knob where thousands upon thousands have descended (actually ascended since it's on a hill I believe) over the years to seek him out.   But no, we would not find him there.  We would find him in the library. Not only can Phil talk, he can read.  It wasn't hard to find the building.  You just look for the statue.  Yes, another one. And there we found Punxsutawney's most famous resident in a large glass enclosure in the library.  Doesn't it seem rather odd that he'd be at Gobbler's Knob in the winter and in a building in the summer?  But hey, I don't think the people in Punxsutawney are exactly normal.  If they believe a woodchuck (that's another word for groundhog) can live over a hundred years and that one of their own can speak Groundhogese, I'm not at all surprised to find Phil cooped up in the library during the nicest time of the year.

Actually, I enjoy Groundhog Day.  When I was teaching music to children in Alabama, we'd always sing groundhog songs in February.  To be honest, I don't think those kids had a clue as to what six more weeks of winter even meant.  Azaleas are blooming in March!  I grew up in New York, and though I enjoyed those first few months of ice-skating, sledding and building snow forts, by February I was weary of the whole thing.  I'm actually glad that a very ordinary place like Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania gets us out of our winter doldrums for a day, reminding us that no matter how much longer we might have to wait, Spring is coming.  Can't wait! 
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