By DAVE KIFFER
February 03, 2011
About all I found was an article in the Juneau Empire about the natural history of the marmot (also called the woodchuck and the groundhog). But no details about our upcoming weather, unfortunately.
As you all know, our former Governor – Sarah Palin Superstar – declared February 2 to officially be Alaska Marmot Day in 2009. No more being concerned with Punxsutawney Phil or Buckeye Chuck or Grady the Groundhog for us. We would now have our own hairy rodent-like creature to drag out of its den, expose to camera flashes, and then stuff back in the ground to “enjoy” the rest of its hibernation.
Yet, sadly, we Alaskans apparently decided to let sleeping “land beavers” lie this year. There were no recorded instances of meteorological prognostication from our marmots. We have no idea whether or not we are going to have six more weeks of winter.
Naturally, I had to dig deeper into the subject. So I paid a visit to one of our local “whistle pigs.” Cholmondeley Marmota Monax.
Chomly (as he his known to his friends) asked that I not divulge the location of his “Mam” cave.
“While black bears are not particularly clever,” he noted. “They have recently gotten more internet savvy, particularly during the winter dozing period, and many of them have 3G. So I would rather not announce to them where I live because I would have to move again.”
Chomly has a spacious “mam” cave indeed. With all the accoutrements of a modern bachelor, including flat screen TV, barcalounger, waterbed, Wi-Fi, and Playstation.
“This whole thing about ‘hibernation’ is just a bunch of hooey we concocted to get the Fish and Game dweebs to leave us alone for a few months,” he said. “We picked that up from the bears. Otherwise those scientists are always chasing us down, darting us and measuring us, and trying to parse out the components of our poop. Geeze, give me a break.”
Chomly was getting ready for a Super Bowl Party when I met with him.
“Boy, was I happy when the Bears got knocked out of the playoffs,” he noted. “I hate those guys. They are always ripping up my dens and trying to eat me. ”
He conceded he wasn’t much of a football fan.
“I have no idea what a Steeler or a Packer is, but that’s okay,” he added. “It’s still a great chance to get together and do a little ‘whistling” if you get my drift.”
But what I was really interested in was the future weather.
In other parts of the country, folks breathlessly wait to find out whether a groundhog/woodchuck/marmot will see his or her shadow. If so, it means another six weeks of winter.
“What a bunch of baloney, if you’ll pardon my Italian,” Chomly said. “First of all, if you see your shadow in early February it means the sun is shining. How is that a predictor of winter at all? It’s frequently clear, cold and sunny in February. And then the heavens open up and the weather slams you until June.”
He had a point. I’m not sure that even the Farmer’s Almanac could come up with a “folksy” enough explanation for why a woodchuck shadow would mean more winter.
“It is pretty silly,” Chomly agreed. “I mean if I popped outside and saw sunshine at any point of the year, the last thing I’d do would be dive back in for six weeks more of R&R. If anything, I get my boat up on the grid and start copper painting pronto.”
Fair enough, but did he see his shadow on Feb. 2?
“I’d be lying if I didn’t take a peak,” Chomly said with a wink. “We are curious creatures, that’s where all that “wood chucking” comes from. I mean, how much can you chuck? It’s a fair question.”
But did he see his shadow?
“What, in Southeast Alaska, are you kidding?” he whistled. “Has anyone hear seen their shadows since 1936?”
But when pressed for a prediction, he sighed.
“Okay,” he said after a pause. “I predict that Ketchikan will have 47 more weeks of rain this year. “
And there you have it.
Straight from the Marmot’s Mouth.
Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org
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