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franklin county times

Cloudy with a chance of groundhog

Are you already holding out hope for a speedy journey to spring? Or perhaps you haven’t given up wishing for a visit from the long-absent Jack Frost. He might yet pop by and bring a handful of snow flurries – or, better yet, at least enough to cover the ground. If he’s feeling especially generous, perhaps we might be so fortunate as to have enough snow to make snow cream or make a likely-feeble attempt at creating a snowman.

Stranger things have certainly happened. After all, I recall at least one year when we had a delightful snow in April, which rather felt akin to magic to my bewildered younger self.

Though our winters are typically far milder, with snow being an all-too-infrequent occurrence, there’s no saying for sure at this point when it will truly feel like spring; however, one time-honored tradition – a beloved piece of weather folklore – is just around the corner: Groundhog Day, the second day of February, which falls on Thursday this year.

According to legend, if the groundhog sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, spring comes early.

If you are anything like me, you put no stock in the weather forecasting capabilities of the noble-yet-humble groundhog – but you enjoy some of the celebratory hoopla surrounding the annual observance.

According to Brittanica.com, every year since 1887, a groundhog in Punxsutawney, Penn., has been designated Punxsutawney Phil. He is the star of a pre-arranged appearance – to much fanfare.

This year, according to Visitpa.com, is the 137th Groundhog Day, and many will likely be out to celebrate and join in the fun.

While I know of no particular Franklin County festivity to celebrate the occasion – hey, why not though? Let’s do it! – it’s a day for which I’ve always held a special affinity and one that recently took on even greater significance.

Sometime this past year, Sir Groundhog took up residence on my family’s property. Surprisingly speedy and rather adept at staying mostly hidden, we get only infrequent opportunities to witness the comings and goings of this clandestine critter.

He’s more than a wee bit jumpy, and one must be very careful when attempting to observe him, lest he be frightened off. Disappearing as quick as a wink is certainly in his skill set.

He hasn’t told us his name yet, though he seems rather like a Fred to me – a simple, dignified name that suits him.

It might be surprising to some that I have heard him more often than seen him. What does the groundhog say? Sometimes, quite a lot! He can be surprisingly loud, especially when running into metal objects full force outside my den window. It’s a distinctive noise I have no trouble identifying.

On one occasion, I carefully snuck out the front door and tiptoed all the way around the property until I was as close as I dared. I stood and watched him for several moments, grabbing a couple of photos on my phone, then went back inside the house, making as little noise as I could.

From the window in my den, I pulled the curtain back to see if he had gotten wise and vanished yet, hoping very much that he hadn’t.

He was still there, munching on some tasty treat he had gathered from our yard.

I made a short video to further document his presence, happy I’d finally managed to see more than a quick glimpse of the back of his head.

It’s always fun when we see “our” groundhog, and I’d finally gotten a proper chance to observe him myself. It was quite the day.

What about you? Are you looking forward to Groundhog Day? Do you have any special plans to commemorate the occasion? Perhaps you have your own resident groundhog who might or might not observe his shadow and forecast, however unreliably, the length of winter or the proximity of spring.

One thing’s for sure: My family’s secretive little groundhog is unlikely to let us know one way or the other. I have no doubt he’ll keep that secret safely guarded, leaving us to fend for ourselves in determining such matters.

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