Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ground Hog Day--It's more than just Phil

It is nearly as hard in this part of the world to escape the escapades of Punxatawney Phil as it is to evade the encroachment of lace, pink, hearts,and flowers into our daily lives as Valentine's Day approaches or the semi-frightening aspects of Halloween hype that start around September each year.

We do not as often hear about Wiarton Willie. Wiarton Willie lives in Wiarton, Ontario. He is the latest of a long line of Williams, all of them albinos. This fantastic genetic quirk makes him all the more amazing and his predictions all the more accurate. The legend began when one brave Wiartonian tried to create a lure for friends to visit him in the winter months. His hype of a Groundhog seer was so effective that a reporter from the Toronto Sun came to see for himself. Alas, at that time there was no Willie, so a white fur hat was tossed in the snow for photographic purposes. While the journalism may have been a bit suspect,the results were momentous. Now if you do a Google search for Wiarton Willie you will find yourself faced with over 30,000 hits. Then you could try spelling Willy with a 'y' and get even more information--it seems there are conflicting interests who promote themselves with conflicting spellings. Try it. The stories, jokes, and information can be a real hoot.

Those of you who never thought about groundhogs and those of you who thought that you knew oh so much because you, too, had heard of Wiarton Willie still have a lot to learn. Thank the Internet for access to lots of information about Groundhogs around North America who will be celebrating on February 2. Here is a partial list.

Punxatawney Phil: Perhaps the most well known and often imitated marmot type, Phil lives in Punxatawney, PA, where he resides in the local library. He weighs about 15 pounds, eating mostly dog food and ice cream. On February 2 he is carried from his comfy home to a heated burrow under a simulated tree stump. At precisely 7:25 a.m. he is gently tugged out into sunlight or shadow.

Jimmy of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, makes his appearance at precisely 7:00 a.m. Central Time to make his prediction at 7:10. He claims a record of 80% accuracy. Perhaps it is the ride in a firetruck that keeps him on his toes.

General Beauregard Lee can be found if you travel to the Yellow Creek Game Ranch near Atlanta, GA. Meet this friendly fellow who has been recognized for public service by four Georgia governors and awarded a DWP (Doctor of Weather Prognostication) by the University of Georgia and a Doctor of Southern Groundology by Georgia State University. He lives in a southern style mansion with a water fountain, post box, monument, marble lawn marker, doormat, satellite TV (so he can watch nature programs on PBS), a wine cellar, a laptop, and a swimming pool. His motto: "Only the Beau Knows".

Pee Wee is a Mile Square Farm Sports chuck who lives in Vermont keeps most of his statistics down in the burrow with him. He website includes ground hog facts as well as some favorite ground hog carols.

Huckleberry Holland of Holland, Ohio, joined his current family when he was but three weeks old. They fed him soy based baby formula until he was about six weeks old when they gradually introduced the foods he eats now: gerbil/hamster food, dried apples, dried apricots, acorns and his favorites peanut butter on toast, red clover, salted peanuts, potatoes chips and very sweet iced tea. He is litter box trained. His routine is to go to sleep about the first of September. Left to his own resources, he would sleep until April 1, but the family usually pulls him out briefly on February 2.

Connecticut Chuckles of Manchester, Connecticut, bounds out of bed at 7:05 a.m. on 2/2. He is a bit angry and litigious. Currently, he is demanding a grand jury investigation of Phil who believes has indulged in some unethical activities in years past. The site is thus very restrained in what they are saying about his activities.

Sir Walter Wally This resident of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has a classy name but little more to say for himself. His site does have promises of educational activities throughout the Ground Hog Day season.

Pierre C. Shadeux The Cajun Groundhog gets my nod for the best classy name. He lives in New Iberia, Louisiana, and is proud to let the world know that the he is much more civilized than that Yankee up north. He gets up at 8:00 a.m. and will not defile Sunday if Groundhog Day should try to interfere with people going to church.

Shubenacadie Sam lives in Nova Scotia so he has the honor of making the first prediction in North America. He also claims to be the first predicting ground hog in Canada.

Upchuck This guy wins my prize both for good name and for honesty. His purpose is solely to promote Silver Point, Tennessee.

Mr. Prozac is known as Zac to his friends. Mr. Prozac is a llama who lives in Oxford, MI. Before you get all upset about a llama usurping the job of a groundhog, it must be pointed out that Zac was carefully trained by a groundhog named Noah John.

Ridge Lea Larry has very little information that I could find on the Internet. Perhaps you can do better. The Geology Department of the State University of New York at Buffalo probably is the least likely to be bitten by their groundhog who has long been stuffed. They seem to cheat a bit in other ways. Their website shows them testing the weather on January 31.

Staten Island Chuck has a really poorly done video of his coming-out party last year. Travel to Staten Island and for only $10 per person you can join Chuck at 7:30 a.m. for his forecast and then join him for breakfast.

For information about other ground hogs, check out this site.
Here you will learn about Birmingham Bill from Birmingham, Alabama, who sleeps in until 10:00 a.m. for his predictions.

Buckeye Chuck of Marion, Ohio, who claims to be the state groundhog.

Chester who lives at the St. Louis Zoo.

Claude the Craw fish who is, yes, a craw fish who predicts the weather in Louisiana.

Dunkirk Dave a proud citizen of Dunkirk, New York.

French Creek Freddy lives in the almost heaven of West Virginia

Octarara Orphie of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, gives Punxatawney Phil a run for his money.

Pennichuck Chuck hails from Hollis, New Hampshire.

Unadilla Bill seems to be the favorite of people in Nebraska.

Don't forget Woody who has been on the job at Howell Nature Center not so far from Ann Arbor for eleven years. Some claim he is much better than any of the others.

A Woody in Vermont is campaigning to get Ground Hog Day changed to Woodchuck Day because they are, after all, one in the same animal.

Which ever ground hog or woodchuck you prefer, your day to celebrate is just around the corner.

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