EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK: Who Cares About Punxsutawney Phil?

Will West Des Moines Wilma or Wylie Waukee see their shadows? Iowa is missing a huge marketing opportunity.

They may be having something like winter in Pennsylvania, where a celebrity groundhog supposedly pops out of an imaginary hole and becomes the official arbiter of how long winter will linger.

Or so they claim in Punxsutawney, where Phil allegedly made his first prognostication in 1887. Do the math. He is the oldest groundhog in the world, something like 125 years old.

There must be some super-antioxidants and pro-biotics in the snails, grubs, nuts and alfalfa Phil’s been feasting on there in Pennsylvania. We’re talking about a super-duper, steroid-infused groundhog, or genetic engineering gone really, really bad. The Groundhog that Refuses to Die. There could be a comeback in it for Bill Murray.

How do you observe Groundhog Day? Do you celebrate it or laugh about it? Tell us in comments.

Punxsutawney Phil is something, all right. Groundhogs here in Iowa only seem to live the normal six or so years.

We need to change that – not the part about groundhogs having normal lifespans, but the part about Pennsylvania being the first place in the country to gjve us the long-awaited news on when spring will finally get here.

Phil has provided a nice bit of marketing for Punxsutawney. Once you’ve been to Gobbler’s Knob, there doesn’t seem to be a lot more to do. Plus, Phil’s a kept groundhog. He’s not out there making it on his own like our hard-working Iowa groundhogs who are part of the 99 percent.

We are missing a huge marketing opportunity. As it is with the caucuses, Iowa should be the first to decide spring.

We need to get a little pushy, like Florida, and butt in line with West Des Moines Wilma or Wylie Waukee, or whatever we’re going to call the groundhog in Iowa.

Don’t you think that when it comes to predicting something as important as the arrival of spring, you’d want to put your trust in a groundhog from Middle America instead of a genetic mutation that is going to live forever?

There is, of course, the danger that our groundhog will make a wild prediction that the rest of the country can’t go along with.

Seriously, Groundhog Day is a holiday? That seems to be a lot of fuss to make over a varmint.

Sure, by the time  Feb. 2 rolls around most years, we Iowans are so sick of winter that we welcome the whimsy of Groundhog Day. But does anyone in the Sun Belt give a rodent’s — and a groundhog is a rodent — patootie what Phil sees or doesn’t see?

If he sees his shadow in the Death Valley, does that mean there will be six more weeks of blistering heat?

If I were an Iowa groundhog, I’m not sure I would have taken the time this year to prepare an elaborate underground winter home — or remained there when the soil around me refused to freeze.

It seems like a groundhog burrow, with its intricate network of tunnels, multiple entrances and — more important in outwitting predators, escape hatches — would be dank, moldy places during a winter like this. For all we know, this near-record warm winter could be responsible for a black lung pandemic among groundhogs.

None have been seen waddling about, so they must still be sleeping. Or the mold has gotten them. We should know later on today.

After Pennsylvania.

Deb Belt February 02, 2012 at 02:47 PM
I'll put my faith in a more scientific predictor: The Old Farmer's Almanac.
Jessica Miller February 02, 2012 at 02:52 PM
I wouldn't mind six more weeks of winter if the freakishly warm winter days remain.
Cat Carpenter February 02, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Where does Phil live the rest of the year - i hope he is allowed to roam and not just stuck in a cage.
Jessica Miller February 02, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Would this be a free range groundhog?
Susan L. McAtee February 02, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Thanx Beth, that was great. I needed a good laugh this morning.


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