Last week Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow.*
I've never met Phil, but I've seen lots of his kin in my lifetime. A groundhog is a woodchuck, a rodent, a ground squirrel. I grew up on a farm in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York and there were woodchuck holes all over the fields. The critters liver underground, where they dig long tunnels with several openings on the surface. When I was a young girl, I my father stopping me from galloping a horse through the field. He took me out to that field, showed me a groundhog hole and said, “If that horse steps in one of these holes while running, it's gonna break its leg and we’ll have to put ‘em down.” I never ran a horse through the field again.
In Germany, hedgehogs were the animal of choice to predict the coming of spring. But when German immigrants came to America, there were no hedgehogs to be found — so they called upon the woodchuck to predict the weather. It works like this: if the groundhog sees its shadow, it will be scared of the shadow and run back down the hole to sleep for another 6 weeks. But if the groundhog does not see its shadow, it means spring is close at hand. Now, mind you, groundhogs are only 40% successful at actually predicting the coming of spring, but still the ritual happens every year. Oh well, what can you expect from a humble rodent that never went to college.
*If you aren't happy with Phil's prediction, here are 8 other groundhogs that predicted spring last week.