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February 02, 2007

Phil and Willie

Today was Groundhog Day, as you probably know. Punxsatawney Phil did not see his shadow, which means spring will arrive early (I always have to reconstruct what it means by remembering that it seems backwards: if he sees his shadow it's sunny, which is cold at night and thus more winter; no shadow (as it was this year) means it is cloudy and thus warm at night, so spring is on the way).

It turns out that the early spring is actually rare; you can see that, global warming be damned, he has never had two years in a row where he missed his shadow, but he has had many long streaks of cold-and-sunny, including one memorable string of scaredness from 1903 to 1933 (the Little Appalachian Ice Age, I think that was called). By the way, a woodchuck and a groundhog are the same beastie.

You may not know that there is also a Canadian version of Phil, called Wiarton Willie--the second most famous of a raft of mesmerizing marmotas. And yes, he is trumpeted on the Canadian news in a vaguely embarrassing, It Happened in Canada way. You should read the Wikipedia page on Willie, it features more alcohol consumption, mythical-northerliness, decomposing bodies, and double murders than a fistful of Robert Service poems.

What both these places have in common, besides groundhogs, is that they are relatively in the middle of nowhere. Punxsatawney is in western Pennsylvania, roughly in the middle of a triangle defined by Erie, State College, and Pittsburgh; and Wiarton is in Ontario yet is not a suburb of Toronto, 'nuff said. Basically if you started in Traverse City, moved eastwards across Michigan, plunged into Lake Michigan (which would likely seem appealing at that point) and somehow emerged on the other side, you would be near Wiarton. Bring your curling broom and your pancake recipe.

Posted by AdamBa at February 2, 2007 10:58 PM

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You mean Lake Huron, bro: Lake Michigan is west of Michigan.

Posted by: Becky at February 7, 2007 03:39 AM