On this first day of summer I would suggest we move Groundhog Day to around May 10th, or roughly six weeks before the Summer Solstice.
The rationale is really quite simple and sensible for several reasons.
First and foremost, the groundhog is never correct in its prediction of whether or not there will be six more weeks of winter. Let’s face it, you’re dealing with a fat, furry rodent who is perfectly snug and asleep when its violently rousted at dawn by a guy who grabs it by the scruff of its neck with the sole purpose of determining whether the groundhog sees its shadow on a crappy February morning when there’s never any sun that would generate said penumbra. What the groundhog is seeing is red because it wants to get back to sleep. That leaves it up to the rouster to simply fabricate the big announcement. Doesn’t matter. Either way the weather is likely to suck for the next six weeks so what’s the point? Sees its shadow, doesn’t see its shadow. Who cares? Spring will get here when it’s good and damned ready… so don’t push it.
Pushing Groundhog Day, if there must be one, to May 10th would still allow the town of Punxsutawney, PA to suck tourists into the ersatz event, only the results would actually be more definitive. Screw looking for a shadow. Place a calendar with a handful of peanuts outside the sleepy guy’s hole, and gently poke him. He’ll still be pissed off but he’s sure to walk over to the calendar to snag the nuts. If you put the nuts on the right date, he’ll make a beeline to the snack and find himself standing right on the start of summer. Then you can accurately announce, “the groundhog has duly verified the Summer Solstice will occur on June 21st!” It’s foolproof. The rodent is right every time, people aren’t given false hope of an early onset of nicer weather, no one freezes their asses off on a frigid February morning, Punxsutawney makes its nut for the year and everyone goes home happy. What’s the hook then, if there’s no drama about the outcome? Ah..that’s the part I saved for last. Pets would be allowed to accompany their owners to the event totally off their leashes. Bowser who scoops up the groundhog first…wins….breakfast, thereby changing the furry guy’s moniker to “Punxsutawney Fill.”
The South likes to do things its own way. Screw Punxsutawney Phil. Deep in the heart of biscuit and grits country, the rodent with the lowdown on how much longer winter will last is named for the man who surrendered to Gen. Grant in the Civil War. Yes..it’s General Lee who’s rousted from his roost and grabbed by the scruff of his furry neck as a couple of good old boys who imbibe for breakfast decided whether or not the sleepy soldier saw his shadow. At least, that’s how it was when my assignment manager at CNN’s Southeast Bureau in Atlanta tossed this one in my lap. I duly showed up at 5:45am at the Yellow River Wildlife Ranch in suburban Snellville to wait for the big moment. To keep us reporters, um, engaged until then, there were bottles of something alcoholic, along with dozens of ham, bacon, egg and sausage biscuits. By the time poor old General Lee was poked until he came out of his slumber and investigated who the hell was bothering him, we were pretty well loaded and larded. It was dark when he emerged from his faux plantation home but the Yellow River boys insisted he saw his shadow. Fine. Six more weeks of winter in Atlanta just means six more weeks of spring. Oh, they had snow once or twice in the 8 years I lived there. I think it totalled a quarter inch, which sent the Georgia peaches into a hissy fit.
Personally, I think the whole groundhog thing is a ruse. A better gauge might be whether or not Ryan Gosling looks in the mirror and sees his five o’clock shadow. He’s Canadian, you know. It’s always winter to him.
Epilogue: You don’t see me in the package above. I did shoot a standup but a prissy anchor had it killed. I was in front of groundhog pelt nailed on the wall of the cabin across from General Lee’s enclosure. I said “…and if the ground hog is wrong….” and turned towards the pelt. Some people just have no sense of humor.