Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Happy Groundhog Day!

February 2nd is probably one of the most important holidays in the American lexicon. Forget Christmas, fiddlesticks to Forth of July – Feb. 2nd is Groundhog Day – when the groundhog meteorologist Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his hideaway in Gobbler's Knob, Pa., and predicts whether or not we'll have 6 more weeks of winter.

But Phil isn't the only weather-predicting rodent. In fact, for the last two years, we've had our very own in the town next door: Milltown Mel. [Perhaps this was him in your backyard - Editorial Bear]

Mel was a gift from husband Jerry to wife Cathy – who had been seriously ill during the 1990s (about when the famous Bill Murrary film Groundhog Day came out.) Each day during her illness, Jerry would ask Cathy how she felt. "About the same," she replied. Jerry responded: "You're like Bill Murray in that film."

And thus a joke was born – and blossomed into a promise to take Cathy to Punxsutawney itself when she was better. Jerry took it one step further in 2009 when he brought a little bit of Gobbler's Knob to Milltown in the form of the town's own meteorological miracle.

And so, just like the little town in Pennsylvania, the residents of Milltown gather around the American Legion on Milltown Road ever February 2nd to see whether Milltown Mel predicts another six weeks of winter or not. This year, the prognosis was good.

Jerry Guthlein hoists Milltown Mel into the air

“Mel did not see his shadow, so we will have an early spring,” said owner Jerry Guthlein; the only town resident fluent in 'Groundhogese'. That was also the prediction of Mel's cousin Phil, all the way in Punxsutawney – meaning this awful winter weather will end within two weeks.

But don't be too hopeful. In 125 years of predicting the weather*, Punxsutawney Phil has only been right 39% of the time; meaning that the chances are in our favor we'll see winter continue longer than expected.

* The average groundhog life expectancy is 7 to 10 years. Residents of Gobbler's Knob, however, insist that Punxsutawney Phil is the original article and has lived so long thanks to an annual sip of 'Groundhog Punch' which extends his life by another seven years.

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