I begin this column with a question that I admit is mostly irrelevant: What happens if Groundhog Day arrirves before winter weather does?
Well, we could find out Sunday, which is Feb. 2. That's the day when Punxsutawney Phil, the legendary groundhog who gives this non-holiday its name, will come out of his hole in the Pennsylvania town that most of us never think about on every other day of the year and tell us whether or not we will have six more weeks of winter weather.
To which I say: Who cares?
I have never had much regard for the ability of a lowly rodent that most of us have never seen in the wild to be able to accurately predict the length of winter in a community hundreds of miles from where I live. Whether it is 80 degrees or 10 degrees in Punxsutawney this Sunday, it will not affect my life one iota.
I don't even think the groundhog is nature's most reliable creature for predicting winter weather. My experience is that wooly worms — aka caterpillars — are much more accurate than groundhogs in predicting winter weather, although neither can hold a candle to Tony Cavalier on WSAZ or the Farmer's Almanac as weather forecasters.
While I have been known to completely forget about it being Groundhog Day on Feb. 2, it is the biggest day of the year up north in Punxsutawney. In fact, if you want to really celebrate this Groundhog Day, take a few hours to drive to Punxsutawney and join the thousands of other people (yes, really) who flock there each Feb. 2 to be there when Phil makes his prediction. You can go on the internet to get a compete copy schedule of all the events scheduled in Punxsutawney Sunday, including a cornhole tournament. Wow! I'm almost sorry I will miss it.
What gives me less desire to celebrate Groundhog Day in 2020 than in most other years is that, as far as I am concerned, we have yet to have any real winter weather since the season officially arrived back on Dec. 21. Oh, sure, we have had a few cold days when I have actually had to wear my winter coat and gloves, but even on those days, it warmed up enough to discard them by early afternoon.
The same can be said for snow. What little snow we have had so far this winter has mostly completely melted away long before noon. I have yet to successfully make my first snowball this winter, much less go sledding, and if I don't pelt a granddaughter with at least one wet snowball or glide down a hill on a sled, well, it just doesn't feel like winter.
As I have written before, I have never disliked winter. I just prefer the coldest season lasted three days insted of three months.
I know that regardless of what Punxsutawney Phil predicts, Feb. 2 does not forebode the end of winter weather in these parts. In fact, some of the worst winter storms I have lived through in my more than seven decades have been in February and even March. In fact, on March 13, 1991 or 1992 (I’m not sure which year) we had the biggest snowstorm right here in Ashland that I have ever lived through, and I grew up in Ohio! My oldest son was married on that snowy day, and while that marriage did not last, the blizzard raging outside made the wedding unforgettable for the few who were there.
So, whether or not Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow Sunday, we likely will have some harsh winter weather before my beloved Cincinnati Reds play their first game.
Frankly, I'm hoping for a good freeze that is cold enough kill those yellow jackets sleeping in the ground. That's something to celebrate.
Reach JOHN CANNON at firstname.lastname@example.org.