Punxsutawney Phil Versus The Woolly Worm

(NOTE: This blog was originally published on Dec 23, 2009)

Groundhog Day

With Groundhog Day a mere six weeks away, it’s time for Punxsutawney Phil fans everywhere to unite against a newly discovered threat: the Woolly Worm. That’s right, dear readers, the Woolly Worm is trying to muscle in on Phil’s meteorologic territory.

To bring you up to speed, the good people of Banner Elk, NC hold an annual Woolly Worm Festival every year on the third weekend of October. The gala event includes crafts, amusement rides, food, live entertainment, and of course the premier event, Woolly Worm races. These races consist of an endless sea of fuzzy little caterpillars climbing up individual ropes, much like you and I did during 9th grade gym class. The only difference being that unlike the Woolly Worm, we were wearing short shorts and tube socks which don’t make for really good climbing. (The trip back down wasn’t all that comfortable either.)

Anyway, this past October there were more than 1,500 worms competing through more than 70 races to determine the grand Woolly Worm champion, who then got to prognosticate about how severe the coming winter would be. According to my sources, the Woolly Worm is a striped beast with 13 segments, alternately colored in various shades of black and brown; sort of like your grandmother’s varicose veins except that the Woolly Worm’s coloring is significantly more attractive. The coming winter weather is predicted through a complicated formula involving the darkness or lightness of the colors, how those colors compare to Al Gore’s hockey stick, and the amount of flatulence produced by the ever-delicious food being sold at the festival. As a side note, one year Mrs. McWilbert’s High Mountain Chili was so spicy it threw off all the flatulent measurements, which in turn, skewed the overall weather prediction. When asked about it Mrs. McWilbert blamed global warming.

For those of us who still support the real, legitimate weather animal, Punxsutawney Phil, this is such an obvious rip-off it’s outrageous. I mean, c’mon. Phil is an animal predicting the weather, Woolly is an animal predicting the weather, and both events occur in places not known for their large metropolitan populations. How much more similar could the Woolly Worm festival be without using Punxsutawney Phil’s likeness and image? I say we stand up and fight against these obvious animal weather charlatans. Power to Punxsutawney!

It will be a tough fight comrades, being that Phil is just one groundhog against a whole army of Woollies, but these furry little leeches must be stopped in the name of the Academy of Science With Animals Who Can Predict the Weather. If we fail in our weather war there could be dire global circumstances; things like the polar ice caps becoming neurotic because they don’t know whether to believe a groundhog, a worm, or Al Gore. People, we cannot have neurotic ice caps! They’ll melt a little when Phil pokes his head out, freeze back up after the Woolly Worm races end, and Al Gore will be left standing there with a blissfully ignorant smile on his face. Oh, the humanity……

Further more, if the Woolly Worm is allowed to continue predicting the weather it will undoubtedly give rise to other creatures of the earth thinking they are qualified to produce weather forecasts too. Some of them might even be good enough to show up on TV!

Wait a minute….wait just a minute…..

On second thought, there might be a money making opportunity here. I’m thinking maybe a franchise operation where we could license all kinds of animals to predict any number of things. How about the Duluth Donkey and Ernie Elephant predicting the outcome of the annual election season. We could have the two prophetic mammals “do number two” at various spots around the festival site; a different sample for each individual political race. In Presidential years we could create these really humongous “number two” piles just for the extra boom factor. If we can find people willing to act as judges (network news anchors would fit the bill nicely), they would then walk around and smell each sample. The animal who produces the least offensive pile of odoriferous offerings would be representative of the winner for that race. The sweeter the pooh the more likely the win, just like in real life.

We could franchise a pig to predict the football season, a locust for the annual mid-west growing season, and a laughing hyena to tell us whether or not Simon Cowell’s personal favorite will win American idol. The possibilities are endless, my friends, endless.

But then again, what about poor old Punxsutawney Phil? Does he deserve such insensitive, greedy, selfish treatment? After all, he’s been working the weather racket for more than 120 years, faithfully putting up with grown men dressed in top hats and tails pulling him out of his home before he’s even had a shower, and putting him on full display. To make matters worse, he’s had to keep a straight face while these grown men stand there making what seem to be sick gerbil sounds, claiming they are having a conversation with him. Just once I’d like to hear Phil scream, “French, you idiots. I speak ze French language!” I’m kidding folks, Phil doesn’t really speak French.

He speaks Klingon.

Anyway, all this talk of animals predicting the weather reminds me of my late Uncle Silas. He used to have this huge wart on his posterior that would swell up whenever it was going to rain. He tried to hire it out to the local TV weatherman but the guy already had a working dung beetle. Though disappointed by the cold rejection, dear old Silas went to work for NASA in the climatology department. Shortly before his death he authored a paper he titled “Global Warming My !#@”. If Punxsutawney Phil and the Woolly Worm could read I’m sure they’d be proud.

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