Little mammal is big business for one small city
by Ron Swift for the Patterson Irrigator
Feb 02, 2012 | 458 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ron Swift
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You may snivel about the Groundhog Day tradition, but the folks back in Punxsutawney, Pa., certainly don’t. After all, they’ve been marking Feb. 2 with a major celebration for 125 years, and it’s become big business.

According to the tradition, if Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his hole Feb. 2 and sees his shadow, he goes back to bed for six more weeks to await the arrival of spring weather. If no shadow, then we’ll have an early spring.

The unpronounceable name of this city of 6,200 plus one groundhog actually is the Native American word for “sand flies.” And Phil was originally called Br’er Groundhog and reportedly speaks in Groundhogese, understood only by the president of the Inner Circle, the group of locals who run the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

Oh, yes, you can join the club for an annual fee of $15, and chapters are located in several Eastern states, with one in Canada. You’ll receive a membership card, along with quarterly newsletters.

Phil’s 126th appearance at 7:20 this morning before a gathering on Gobbler’s Knob is being broadcast to those who can’t make it in person. He reportedly drinks a special concoction each year that ensures longevity, and I’m sure those in Punxsutawney aren’t about to let him expire.

Oh, yes, those folks claim he’s never been wrong.

Wait until next year

Boy Scout Troop 82 of Patterson, along with many local football fans, is in a funk about the 49ers not making the Super Bowl.

It seems the troop holds its lone fundraiser of the year on Super Bowl Sunday — a takeout tri-tip sandwich feed in the parking lot behind the Federated Church. With our favorite 49ers falling a play or two short of going to the big bash this Sunday, ticket sales by the Scouts are quite slow.

So I’ll make you a deal. If you want tickets, just give me a call (I’m in the book) or email (end of this column) and I’ll deliver them to your door. Just leave a message.

And on Sunday, we’ll all say together, “Wait until next year.”

A good question

I’ve been asked: How could the city of Patterson have possibly spent $50,000 on legal expenses and a P.R. firm to defend City Council members against Grand Jury accusations when such accusations are not actually legal charges?

Sorry, I truly don’t know. But can you imagine what the expense might be if criminal charges were to be filed!

Email definition

Someone sent me this definition of calories: tiny creatures that live in your closet and sew your clothes a little bit tighter every night.

Now you know.

From the mail bag

Mr. Swift: You’ve not mentioned HM (Housemate) for some time. Is she still with us? — Concerned

Dear Con: She certainly is. I recently saw her several times during those few days of rain we experienced. When it’s not raining, she usually spends 23 hours a day gardening, coming in only to cook, wash clothes and clean house, and only occasionally complain of tiredness. I’ve been suggesting for years that she “hire out” for that extra hour a day, but then I’d find myself doing the cooking, washing and cleaning.

Then I was asked at church how long we’ve been married. “Fifty years this coming November,” was my perky reply. “To the same woman?” came his retort. Well, almost the same, but her gardening hours are up.

By the way, she rarely has time to read this column. You might have been wondering.

For the sports fan

Oh, yes, one more item about the 49ers.

The coaches should give Vernon Davis special training about how to sprint down the sideline. It’s OK to run a full foot inside the white chalk, Vernon. It really is.

And finally …

It was Thomas Jefferson who said, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have.”

Smart man, that Tom.

• Ron Swift is editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at

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