Originally uploaded by Mic2006.
As a rodent weather prognosticator, Willie did not stand-alone. There is of course Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam, Alberta’s Balzac Billy and most contentiously, Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil. It is said that Phil has a severe overbite, probably from inbreeding, not so uncommon amongst backwoods groundhogs. But by the same token, a red eyed pink nosed Willie; a silky coated groundhog specimen of regal appearance is sadly thought to be a little touched in the head and somewhat on the dim side.
Punxsutawney Phil is generally more optimistic about the weather than Willie, though it may come of living a little further to the south. Phil’s predecessor offered his first prediction in 1887. He predicted an early spring only slightly more often than the more conservative Willie.
This past Groundhog Day Punxsutawney Phil was a little out of sorts. Again he and Willie were at odds, Willie saw no sign of his shadow but Phil had to be dragged from his burrow on “Gobblers Knob” by a top hatted “Master of Ceremonies. Phil was in no mood for small talk by that time and he scurried back down underground. The onlookers interpreted Phil’s actions of indicative of six more bitter weeks of winter.
I tended to favor Willie’s predictions, not because he was a Canadian but rather, being somewhat short sighted like Willie, I simply called it as I saw it. This last favourable prediction of his, said by his handler to be representative of his decline, had been followed by four days of balmy spring weather. The snow has all but melted and in the fog of an unseasonably warm February Shaka (My golden retriever) and I took evening walks beneath the misty, salmon-coloured haze of the streetlights – normally we would have trudged through fridgid sub-zero temperatures. Though I am not sure of the exact accuracy of Willy’s predictions he was said to be more than 50% right. That beats the odds for our local human forecasters!
In the photo above Maggie poses with a seven-foot high Wiarton Willie. It is a sculpture that depicts the deceased rodent in his prime. It was a work carved some years ago from the chalky-white Guelph Formation dolostone. Visitors heading onto the Bruce peninsula can stop in the town of Wiarton and at the edge of the lake across from his former habitation behind the library at 578 Brown Street, you will see his memorial.