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Small Wonders: Predictions that the groundhog missed

February 04, 2011|By Patrick Caneday

On Wednesday, a 7-pound rodent climbed out of a hollowed tree stump, coerced and cajoled by men in top hats, while the masses looked on expectantly.

Some call him Marmota monax, others a woodchuck, others a land-beaver. Still others a groundhog. Most call him Phil, and Phil failed to see his shadow. So they say. And it was proclaimed, spring shall come early.

Then the hearty men and women of Punxsutawney, Pa., swiftly ran back indoors to bear down for the goliath snowstorm sweeping every part of the nation but ours, and to begin making brisket and buffalo wings for Sunday's big game. Go Steelers!

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Or Packers!

Or whoever you root for in the absence of a pro football team in Los Angeles due to the city's backbiting, infighting and ineptitude at landing a franchise in the second-largest TV market in the nation.

Every year, Thing 1 and Thing 2 ask why, if it is such an auspicious day, don't they get Groundhog Day off from school like the 14 other holidays honoring our presidents. And we tell them honestly: state-mandated testing. Or preparation for state-mandated testing. Either of which seems to consume fully 75% of the school calendar.

The other 25% are “pupil-free” (i.e. furlough) days and assemblies instructing students how to sell chocolate, cookie dough or gift-wrapping paper to their parents' co-workers to keep the lights on at school — and keep chocolate, cookie dough and wrapping paper manufacturers in the black.

Halliburton is in the wrong business.

But I digress.

We have our own rodent tradition here in the land where weather is predicted by long-legged, chesty ingénues in tight-fitting sweaters rather than fur-laden, four-legged mammals. His name is Nutty Boy. He's our neighborhood squirrel.

And on the day after Phil makes his prognostication, or whenever he's recovered from his hangover from the after-party, Nutty Boy climbs down from his perch, unfiltered cigarette dangling from his mouth. I give him a cup of TJ's Dark French Roast, and we sit in the Adirondack chairs enjoying the almonds he buried in the recesses of my lawn last summer. And he tells me what he thinks is going to happen this coming year:

It's a little cold now. But it will get warmer. Might get colder too. Probably rain at some point. But people will still be able to surf in the morning, ski in the evening and be home in time to watch “Celebrity Rehab.”

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