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Dakota Datebook

Six More Weeks of Winter

 

Tradition says if the groundhog emerges from its cozy hibernation on February 2nd and sees its shadow, it will retreat and return to hibernating for another six weeks. If the day is overcast and the groundhog doesn’t see a shadow, it means the animal assumes spring is right around the corner.

On this date in 1915, the Washburn Leader reported on the annual appearance of the groundhog. The results did not look good. The newspaper reported that Mr. G. Hog’s prediction would not meet with the approval of North Dakotans. Yes, he saw his shadow.

In spite of studies that show no correlation between the groundhog and the arrival of spring, the tradition remains a popular one. The newspaper observed that a fuzzy little snout poked out of the burrow, followed by a furry body that ventured out onto the snowy ground. Mr. G. Hog had just started to think the day would be cloudy when suddenly the sun broke through. “Like a 30-30 caliber Springfield bullet the fuzzy ball shot back into the hole from which it had just emerged.” And just like that, North Dakota was promised six more weeks of winter. Mr. Hog would be responsible for a delay in the planting season.

There was a remedy for this. The Washburn Leader observed that the state legislature was in session. The newspaper proposed that the “bunch in Bismarck” appoint a groundhog inspector for each township in the state. The inspectors would be responsible for locating and marking every groundhog burrow in their territory. Each year just prior to February second, the inspectors would erect an awning over each hole. It would have to be big enough that even on the sunniest day, the groundhog would stand no chance of seeing its shadow. Inspectors would be appointed for life. However, an inspector could be removed whenever spring failed to arrive in his township on February third. The failure of spring to arrive would be sufficient evidence of the inspector’s negligence.

The newspaper asserted that, if rigidly enforced, this measure would greatly benefit North Dakota, with the state enjoying a longer growing season. The cost of paying for inspectors would be offset by the revenue from increased agricultural production. There is no indication that the measure was ever addressed by the legislature.

 

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher

 

Sources:

Washburn Leader. “Six More Weeks of Winter.” Washburn ND. 2/5/1915. Page 1.

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