02-01-2013   Leave a comment

Are you ready for the big celebration to begin? It’s Ground Hog Day eve. As I’ve mentioned many times before I was born and raised in western Pennsylvania from good sound German stock on my mother’s side of the family.  February 2 was always celebrated and remains a well known and enjoyed holiday for us.  I never bothered to search out the origins of the holiday because to me it didn’t  really matter.  So I found this little tidbit of information which is a  little interesting and might tell you something you didn’t already know.

The celebration, which began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, has its origins in ancient European weather lore, wherein a badger or sacred bear is the prognosticator as opposed to a groundhog. It also bears similarities to the Pagan festival of Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar, which is celebrated on February 1 and also involves weather prognostication and to St. Swithun’s Day in July.

I’ve written about my close association with Ground Hog Day a number of times in the past but it’s a fun story and bears repeating (in my humble opinion).

The holiday means only one thing in Pennsylvania and that is the appearance of our old friend ‘Punxatawney Phil’ on Gobbler’s Knob.  He’s scheduled to show his furry little face on the second of February every year to let us know whether we’ll have six more weeks of winter.

To reminisce a bit, way too many years ago I was a rookie state police trooper in Pennsylvania. To a newbie that means getting stuck with every crappy police detail they can find for you.  One of the crappier of those was being sent to Punxatawney to guard “Phil” and for crowd control in and around Gobbler’s Knob.  I thought they were kidding me but they weren’t.

A few of us rookies were ordered to make the trek to Punxatawney, PA along with a veteran sergeant who must have lost the coin toss. We arrived in our cleanest and well pressed uniforms, met with all of the local politicians, and then were introduced to ‘Phil"’.  He was cordial enough for a stupid gopher but we were well advised to keep our hands away from him.  He was a touch cranky and known to nip off a finger or two if provoked.

Believe it or not the crowds were huge.  I’ve never understood why every local politician from miles around flocks to that ceremony.  I guess they’re just hoping to get some free TV face-time or maybe even an interview with some of the local media. I met some mayors, some councilmen, and a few political hacks which unfortunately weren’t even as interesting as meeting ‘Phil’.

The only good thing I experienced that day was a rather buxom news reporter  from a nearby town who took an immediate liking to my manly stature and my  pretty uniform.  She was much less furry than ‘Phil’ which was a plus and she  also paid for my dinner.  She even convinced me that dating her was the right thing to do.  So I did.

It’s sad  to say but we all know any relationship built upon a Groundhog Day Ceremony was doomed from the start.  She couldn’t understand why I didn’t care to drive to Punxatawney (a three hour round trip) every weekend.  I  finally explained to her that long distance relationships just never work out no matter what.  It wasn’t her, it was me.  I dragged out all of the old clichés I could remember and disappeared from her life.

They tried to send me on that  detail the following year but I had a court appearance and was able to dodge that bullet. I wasn’t too concerned about meeting “Phil” again but that blond had me seriously concerned.  Besides, do we really need a gopher to let us know we’re going to have six more weeks of winter. We really are stupid sometimes.

Posted February 2, 2013 by Every Useless Thing in Humor, Just Saying Again

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