Relying on a rodentTomorrow is that big day when we all rely on a rodent, a groundhog, from Punxsutawney, Pa., to tell us what the rest of the winter is going to be like.
By: By Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
Tomorrow is that big day when we all rely on a rodent, a groundhog, from Punxsutawney, Pa., to tell us what the rest of the winter is going to be like.
Funny, isn’t it, how, with all of the radar, satellites and other sophisticated weather tracking devices that we have, we still rely on a rodent, also known as a woodchuck, whistle-pig or land-beaver, to give us the lowdown? Isn’t that just a little bit like relying on a refrigerator repairman to tell us which fashion jeans to buy?
Of course, according to folklore, if it’s cloudy when the groundhog emerges from its burrow, it will leave the burrow and signify that winter-like weather is about to end. If it’s sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks.
Naturally, I’m hoping that he leaves the comfort of his burrow, his big screen TV and wrap-around couch, to give us endless weeks of weather bliss, just like we’ve experienced thus far this winter season. But what if he simply has an argument with his wife and gets booted out, we get out the lawn chairs and Hawaiian shirts, and the weather gods dump 4 feet of snow on us? After all, this is what life is like. It’s full of inconsistencies and multiple variables, which makes cause and effect a sometimes-complicated scenario.
And that reminds me of when I moved here three years ago from California and everyone from the order taker at Taco Bell to a state legislator told me that “we don’t have winters here anymore,” and then the skies opened up and buried us in more fluffy flakes than Floridia’s dogs have fleas, McDonald’s has fries and politicians have opinions.
But, then again, there are always those other sophisticated weather predictors that we can rely on, which the National Weather Service secretly tracks, I’m sure. Like cats scratching posts before a wind, washing their faces before a rain and sitting with their back towards a fire or heat source before a major snowfall.
Or when a rooster crows at night, indicating that there will be rain by morning. And that storms will soon come if pigs gather leaves and straw, cows refuse to go to pasture, dogs whine for no reason or eat grass, and porpoises frolic at sea.
Then again, perhaps those “natural” indicators are more reliable than those that have been created by man, especially when you consider that, in the middle of the 19th century, the editor of "The Old Farmer’s Almanac," a traditional source for long range forecasts, discovered that they had forgotten to include the weather for a certain day in late June.
“Just put anything in there,” the publisher told him. So the editor wrote that, on this particular day, it was not only going to be fair, but it was also going to rain, snow and sleet. And, as it turned out, the forecast was 100 percent accurate. This means that, in the end, it’s all a big guess, because things can always change and often do at the last minute.
And that’s why those talking heads on NFL football pre-game telecasts are so irritating, arguing with each other over who is going to win the upcoming games as if they had a real clue to future outcomes. I’d rather line up four ground hogs looking at their shadows and rely on their expertise than the former athletes currently peppered with makeup and roped in too tight ties.
Because this is the weekend America will once again divide into groups, suck down suds, chomp on chips and heal headaches Monday morning after a Sunday perched in front of the big screen watching Brady bomb Manning in the latest Super Bowl.
Which isn’t a prediction, since, when it comes to predictions I subscribe to the Abe Lincoln viewpoint that, “With high hopes for the future, no prediction is ventured.”
Or as Niels Bohr, the Danish physicist, said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”
In fact, here are some notable predictions that you may like from the past:
“Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.”
— Dr. Dionysius Lardner, 1830.
“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
— Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.
“Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.”
— Dr. Lee De Forest, inventor of the Audion tube and a father of radio, Feb. 25, 1967.
“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.
Holten is a freelance columnist and cartoonist from Dickinson.