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Always something to celebrate

Well, another Groundhog Day has come and gone. Party horns, streamers, chucked wood and other festive decorations may be stowed, and time spent in holiday preparation can be utilized in anticipation of Aardvark Day coming right up in March — March 19, to be precise.

Would I kid? I randomly Googled when is Aardvark Day, trying to think of the weirdest animal to celebrate besides groundhogs, and up it popped.

Frankly, I don’t hold with pulling old Phil out of a solid slumber just to satisfy the whimsy of the masses and fatten coffers in Punxsutawney. Do people really face airline hassles to Pennsylvania and huddle together in overcoats for the thrill of seeing a fat, sleepy squirrel?

That’s what groundhogs are, apparently — large squirrels, also members of the marmot family. This annual effrontery to clan marmot has been happening for 135 years now.

Who in the world first thought of doing it? It’s hard to put the skids on a tradition so entrenched in the hearts of “tens of thousands” in attendance. Tens of thousands? Do they lug telescopes to be able to see the animal? Winter would pass before folks in the rear would hear the findings. Then you know how it is when a few people at a party pass along information and how it comes out all wrong? By the time the guys in the back got the word, it could be pretty messed up.

Should you not care how you spend your time, you might want to visit the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club website and “join the party.” Yes, there’s much more to the festive hog-awakening. Phil is a celebrity.

There was a release party for the official 2022 beer — a Logyard Brewing Prognosticator Pils. Plus, the website is the source for official PP merchandise (watch out for those knock-offs). Everything from hoodies bearing Phil’s mug to mugs (sold out) and commemorative coins.

Groundhogs don’t naturally awaken until around the end of February or first week of March. I know how grumpy I would be if someone dragged me out of bed a month early.

This year, Philip predicted six more weeks of winter after allegedly seeing his shadow. If I were him, I’d fake a dire prediction every year just to bring the whole charade to a halt. Then he would be Party Pooper Phil, but his accuracy rating might improve.

PP’s predictions are only 40% correct according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And those people keep accurate records. My sinuses are more accurate. The thing is, we’re talking Pennsylvania. Spring never shows up before the middle of June, does it? Anyway, they get about seven inches of snow in March. They’re hoping for an early spring?

The closest thing we have to groundhogs here in Oregon are yellow-bellied marmots, but don’t call them that to their face, at least not during mating season. They enjoy higher, colder weather and live in Central and Eastern Oregon among wood and rock piles — far removed from men in top hats. And it’s the lure of a female yellow-bellied marmot that stirs them from their near-death slumber — as in, mating season, not spring posies.

Imagine Phil’s utter disgust when he wakes from his dream state only to find a bewhiskered male human in a top hat and probably wearing too much Old Spice cologne, grinning down at him instead of a sweet Punxsutawney Phyllis.

An article by Jim Anderson from Bendsource.com referred to the marmots they see in Bend. They call them rock chucks, woodchucks and whistle-pigs, which is way worse than yellow-bellied, to my thinking. Anderson states that their temperature drops from 99 degrees when active to 40 degrees during deep hibernation. Their heartbeat slows from 80 bpm to an astounding five, and they take only four breaths per minute. Now, that is a sound sleeper.

So, forward to celebrate the African aardvark. Be thinking of options for ants and termites as tasty bites, but don’t try pulling an aardvark from a termite hill to forecast the weather.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author with too much time on her hands. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.