For those people not inclined to believe omens, the issue of whether Puxsutawny Phil of Pennsylvania will see his shadow will be of no importance. Tomorrow, February 2, 2011, is Groundhog Day, an opportunity for believers who adhere to the supposition that your ordinary, run-of-the-mill groundhog has the power to predict whether there will be a quick end to winter.
According to Wikipedia, "The groundhog (Marmota monax), also known as a woodchuck, or in some areas as a land-beaver, is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. Other marmots, such as the yellow-bellied and hoary marmots, live in rocky and mountainous areas, but the woodchuck is a lowland creature. It is widely distributed in North America and common in the northeastern and central United States. Groundhogs are found as far north as Alaska, with their habitat extending southeast to Alabama."
In the end, your cute groundhog is related to and somewhat similar in appearance to your common rat, but with a cuter tail. Nice tails can make the difference between socially unacceptable wildlife and visually appealing pests like squirrels. Squirrels get away with murder even though they dig up flower bulbs, take bites out of hanging fruit and other stuff. But I digress. Again.
According to the official Puxatawnyphil.com site (the hog has his own site!) the average groundhog is 20 inches long and normally weighs from 12 to 15 pounds. Punxsutawney Phil weighs about 20 pounds and is 22 inches long. Obviously he is well fed.
A groundhog's life span is normally 6 to 8 years. Phil receives a drink of a magical punch every summer during the annual Groundhog Picnic, which gives him 7 more years of life.
So tomorrow at sunrise, Phil will emerge with some help from his human friends, from his burrow at Gobbler's Knob, and his handlers will announce whether or not Phil has seen his shadow. If Phil sees his shadow, legend has it that we can expect six more weeks of winter weather. No shadow indicates an early spring.
Thing is...and one (me) wonders if it has occurred to anyone that perhaps - just perhaps - Phil doesn't really want to come out of his cozy burrow or man-made... whatever. Maybe he would rather sleep through winter like his friends and relatives instead of being wrenched from his sleep and thrust into the limelight and media melee.
Another perplexing question - at least worthy of consideration - is whether Phil's prediction is applicable for the Pennsylvania area or the entire North American continent?
I'll go out on a limb here and predict that there will be more cold weather, snow storms and freezing temps until Spring. Hey - I'm not even related to a groundhog!
UPDATE!!! ACCORDING TO THE HOG(S) PREDICTIONS TODAY, THERE WILL BE AN EARLY SPRING, SO PUT AWAY YOUR SHOVELS AND SNOW-BLOWERS!