In a perfect world, I would like to know what will happen in the future. I could be prepared and make plans accordingly. But since I do not read my daily horoscope or visit psychics, I have decided to predict my future according to the activities of the chipmunks in my backyard.
Why not? Every February since 1887, people across the U.S. have looked to a furry groundhog to learn if we will have a long winter or an early spring. Punxsutawney Phil, publicized as the first rodent meteorologist by a local newspaper editor, was hoisted up out of his burrow in Gobbler’s Knob, Pa., to great local fanfare. The idea goes back hundreds of years. Apparently, the custom in Germany was to use hedgehogs to predict the weather. German settlers in Pennsylvania switched to groundhogs as they were readily available.
Typically, groundhogs (also known as woodchucks and whistle pigs) go into hibernation in the late fall. In February, the male groundhogs emerge from their burrows to look for female companionship since there are no dating apps for groundhogs. If the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If the groundhog does not see his shadow, an early spring is on the horizon. Over the years, Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions have been correct about 40 percent of the time. (A coin flip would have a 50 percent accuracy rate.)
While the Groundhog Day photo op in Pennsylvania takes place about two miles outside of town at Gobbler’s Knob, Punxsutawney Phil actually lives year-round in a glass-walled habitat built into the side of the Punxsutawney Memorial Library. Visitors can peek at him before buying touristy groundhog trinkets!
In addition to the famous Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania, I like to hear what Staten Island Chuck has to say when it comes to predicting weather in the tri-state area. Over the years, Staten Island Chuck, who resides at the Staten Island Zoo, has bitten one short New York City mayor and been dropped by another very tall New York City mayor. It must be tough to be woken up from a good hibernation nap to face hordes of newspaper photographers and reporters.
Have you read about Mystic Marcus, the psychic pig? Marcus is an 8-year-old black micropig in Derbyshire, England. His claim to fame is correctly predicting major events and sports competitions, including Wimbledon and soccer matches. According to Mystic Marcus’ owner, Juliette Stevens, Marcus correctly predicted the Brexit vote and the 2016 U.S. presidential election!
Soccer fans all across Great Britain anxiously awaited Marcus’ pick for the recent 2018 World Cup. Before the highly anticipated semi-final match between England and Croatia, Juliette placed identical green apples with the flags of each country sticking out of the top in two groups on the ground. When it was time to make this important prediction, Marcus made a bee-line over to the bunch of apples with England flags and started munching. Bets were placed by soccer fans worldwide for England to win. Unfortunately for Mystic Marcus, HE WAS WRONG! Croatia, the underdog team, beat England and went on to play France in the finals. Mystic Marcus received hate mail and threats from vengeful soccer fans. One disgruntled morning show host tweeted, “Can you smell bacon?”
Poor Mystic Marcus! I guess he is now the laughingstock of the farm yard. He may soon fade into obscurity along with other animal prognosticators including Paul the Octopus and Achilles the Psychic Cat. I’m keeping my eyes on the two chipmunks who continue to scurry under the siding of my house, cheeks bulging with seeds and nuts. Looks like another long winter ahead.
Kim Kovach is a big fan of chipmunks and groundhogs. Her first two children’s chapter books are about a personable groundhog named Kitchawan Kenny. Please visit her website at kimkovachwrites.com.