Saturday, January 28, 2017

Groundhog Day…And I Don't Mean The Movie


By a strange coincidence those six more weeks of winter takes us almost to the Vernal Equinox which signals the official end of winter and the first day of spring.

Every year on February 2 a furry rodent of the groundhog variety named Punxsutawney Phil sticks his head out of his burrow in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to do his annual weather forecast.  In the United States and Canada, this is celebrated as Groundhog Day.  If Phil sees his shadow, it will frighten him and he'll return to his burrow.  If he doesn't see his shadow, he'll emerge and winter will soon be over.

At least, that's what the tradition claims.

The earliest American written reference to a groundhog day was 1841 in Pennsylvania's Berks County (Pennsylvania Dutch) referring to it as the German celebration called Candlemas day where a groundhog seeing its shadow was a weather indication.  Superstition says that fair weather at that time was seen as a prediction of a stormy and cold second half to winter, as noted in this Old English saying:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

Since the first official celebration of Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania in 1886, crowds as large as 40,000 people have gathered in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, for the annual celebration.  And in recent years it's been covered live on television.  Quite an accolade for the little ol' groundhog.  Since 1887, the groundhog has seen his shadow over 100 times [hmm…I wonder how many of those recent times were due to the television lights] predicting a longer winter and has not seen it only a few times to predict an early spring.  There is no record of his prediction for 9 years in the late 1800s.

The groundhog, also known as a woodchuck, is a member of the squirrel family.  The current Punxsutawney Phil weighs fifteen pounds and lives in a climate controlled home in the Punxsutawney library.  On Gobbler's Knob, Phil is placed in a heated burrow underneath a simulated tree stump on a stage before being pulled out at 7:25AM to make his annual prediction.

Quite removed from the concept of the groundhog waking from hibernation and emerging from his burrow in the wild.  :)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Did Butch Cassidy Survive?

We've seen the Paul Newman-Robert Redford movie, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, where they supposedly die in a shoot out with the Bolivian army in 1908.  At the end of the movie, they rush out of the building with guns blazing and are surrounded by soldiers unleashing a barrage of bullets.  The scene freezes with them still on their feet and the closing credits roll across the screen.  We never actually see them die, but it's implied in the same way that the real life story of Butch Cassidy alludes to him having died in South America.

But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, perhaps the story of his death was greatly exaggerated.

For decades rumors have persisted that Butch survived the shoot out, returned to the United States, and lived in quiet anonymity for nearly thirty years under an assumed name in Washington state.

And swirling at the center of the controversy is a 200 page manuscript titled Bandit Invincible: The Story of Butch Cassidy written in 1934 by William T. Phillips, a machinist who died in Spokane, Washington, in 1937.  A Utah book collector and a Montana author believe that the manuscript is not a biography of the famous outlaw, but actually an autobiography and that Phillips was really Butch Cassidy.  They insist the manuscript contains details that only the real Butch Cassidy could have known.

As with all speculative versions of history, there are always detractors to the theory, historians who claim the manuscript is not an accurate portrayal of Cassidy's life…or at least his life that is known.

Everyone pretty much agrees that Butch Cassidy was born Robert LeRoy Parker in 1866 in Beaver, Utah.  He was the oldest of 13 children in a Mormon family and robbed his first bank in 1889 in Telluride, Colorado.  He served a year and a half in the Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie followed by most of the next 20 years spent robbing banks and trains with his Wild Bunch gang.

A Cassidy historian disagrees with the speculative conclusions about the nature of the Bandit Invincible manuscript.  He suggests that the reason Phillips knew so many details about Butch that others wouldn't have known was because the two men actually knew each other rather than Phillips having actually been the real Butch Cassidy.

In 1991 a grave was dug up in San Vicente, Bolivia, reputed to contain the remains of Butch and Sundance.  DNA testing revealed that the bones did not belong to the two outlaws.  However, the Cassidy historian still insists his research confirms that Butch and Sundance died in that 1908 shoot out in Bolivia.

There are stories about the Sundance Kid living long after his time in South America, but they are outnumbered by the many alleged Butch Cassidy sightings.  A brother and sister of Butch's insisted that he stopped in for a visit at the family ranch in Utah in 1925.  Phillips' adopted son believed that his stepfather was the real Butch Cassidy.  Since Phillips was cremated following his death in 1937, there's little possibility of being able to obtain any type of a DNA match.

So the mystery continues…

Saturday, January 14, 2017

First Winter Storm Of The Season

I know other parts of the country have already been inundated by the fun elements of winter weather—the northeast, and midwest have already had snow and blizzard conditions.  Even the deep south has had some nasty northern style winter weather. And just this last week California has been pounded by days of torrential rain causing extensive damage.

All-in-all, it's starting out to be a very wintery type winter. So far, my little area of the country has had freezing temperatures, a little flurry of snow, but nothing of consequence.

Until now.

We have a major ice storm moving in on us…due today (Saturday, Jan 14). Predictions are for up to 2" of ice (no snow, just ice) which translates to major problems for more than just the motorists who need to be on the roads.  Downed tree limbs causing damage to whatever is beneath them such as cars, houses, and power lines.  Downed power lines causing wide spread and prolonged loss of electricity. And, of course, the cold that goes along with it.

Ice is so deceptive.  With snow, you look out the window and can see how much of it surrounds your house.  You can shovel it to make a path and clear the driveway.  But with ice, you look out the window and you don't see just how much of it there is.  And ice is a little difficult to shovel. :)

News story on television last night said no generators for sale available in town and at this point definitely too late to order one when you need it today. Grocery store shelves have been raided. Lots of cars at the gas station making sure the tank is full and locating that cable to charge the cell phone from the car (after disconnecting the automatic garage door opener so you can manually open the garage before running the car engine which means you need to stay with the car…but you can turn on the car heater).

For those of us who do not have back up generators, it's a matter of making sure you have an adequate supply of various size batteries on hand for flashlights, lanterns and radios and for that matter a battery operated radio with emergency weather capabilities.  Start out with fully charged phone, laptop computer, tablet and e-reader. And if you have an all electric kitchen (like I do) make sure you have a manual can opener and food that can be eaten cold (oh no…can't even boil water for instant coffee!! although my water heater is gas so I'll have hot water).  Warm clothes and blankets (no electric blankets and no furnace since the thermostat requires electricity even though the furnace is natural gas). A wood burning fireplace would sure be great but I think I'm too late to build one or buy a wood burning stove!

We had a huge ice storm about 10 years ago…my power was out for several days.  Not a fun time!!

I have a place I can go if I lose power, a friend who has offered me the guest bedroom and they have gas kitchen and wood burning fireplace but at that point in time it's a matter of weighing cold and inconvenience against actually driving on streets of solid ice.

Of course, this too shall pass.  But in the meantime…

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Weird And Bizarre January Holidays

Every month has its share of weird, bizarre and unusual holidays. January is no exception.  Those are the only holidays I'll be sharing with you.  After all, everyone knows the legal holidays…they're the ones with no mail delivery and the banks are closed.  :)

January has its month long celebrations, some serious and others more toward the frivolous: National Bath Safety Month, National Blood Donor Month, National Braille Literacy Month, National Hobby Month, National Oatmeal Month, National Soup Month, and Hot Tea Month.  And in addition to the month long celebrations, the second week of January is designated as Letter Writing Week.

Jan. 2:        Run Up The Flagpole And See If Anyone Salutes Day

Jan. 3:        Festival Of Sleep Day
Jan. 3:        Fruitcake Toss Day
This the day you can finally get rid of all that old fruitcake leftover from the holidays.  Rather than simply tossing them in the trash, invite some friends over and go out to an empty lot to make a game of it.  Who can toss it the farthest?  Or for a less strenuous method, re-gift it next year.
Jan. 3:        Humiliation Day

Jan. 4:        Trivia Day
This is a fun day, a chance for us to share those little nuggets of knowledge with our friends and family.

Jan. 5:        National Bird Day

Jan. 6:        Bean Day
Jan. 6:        Cuddle Up Day
This day provides the opportunity to snuggle up to someone on a cold winter's day…or night.  This holiday is enjoyed by both young and old.

Jan. 7:        Old Rock Day

Jan. 8:        Bubble Bath Day
Jan. 8:        Male Watcher's Day
Here's a day for the ladies, we can officially, openly, and blatantly watch the guys.  The guys are always watching us, so now it's our turn to hoot and holler.

Jan. 10:      Houseplant Appreciation Day
Jan. 10:      Peculiar People Day
This day honors uniquely different people—un-ordinary, extraordinary, unusual, strange, odd, uncommon, intriguing, different, abnormal, and quirky.  Today is the day to look for the good in your peculiar acquaintances.

Jan. 11:      Step In A Puddle And Splash Your Friends' Day

Jan. 12:      Feast Of Fabulous Wild Men Day
Apparently this day suggests you feast your eyes on some fabulous wild men.  Perhaps check out the top 10 sexiest men?  A list should be readily available on the internet.
Jan. 12:      National Pharmacist Day

Jan. 13:      International Skeptics Day
Jan. 13:      Make Your Dream Come True Day

Jan. 14:      Dress Up Your Pet Day

Jan. 15:      National Hat Day

Jan. 16:      National Nothing Day
This is a day for…well…a day for nothing!  It's an un-event.

Jan. 17:      Ditch New Year's Resolutions Day
Since there's a day to celebrate the New Year and make resolutions for the upcoming year, then there should be a day to discard those resolutions.  If you haven't already broken those resolutions you're doing better than most of us.

Jan. 18:      Thesaurus Day

Jan. 19:      National Popcorn Day

Jan. 20:      National Buttercrunch Day
Jan. 20:      Penguin Awareness Day
Although this is celebrated on January 20, World Penguin Day is always on April 25th.  This is a great opportunity to learn about and appreciate one of the few natives of Antarctica.  It's also a day to wear black and white…penguin colors.

Jan. 21:      National Hugging Day
Jan. 21:      Squirrel Appreciation Day

Jan. 22:      National Blonde Brownie Day

Jan. 23:      National Pie Day
Jan. 23:      National Handwriting Day
Jan. 23:      Measure Your Feet Day

Jan. 24:      Beer Can Appreciation Day
Perhaps it's what's inside the beer can that is being appreciated?  This day actually celebrates the day in 1935 when beer was first sold in cans.  There's a collector's market for old beer cans.  Check out collector's catalogues and eBay before throwing away an unusual or old beer can.
Jan. 24:      Compliment Day

Jan. 25:      Opposite Day

Jan. 26:      Spouse's Day

Jan. 27:      Chocolate Cake Day
Jan. 27:      Punch The Clock Day

Jan. 28:      Fun At Work Day
Jan. 28:      National Kazoo Day
The first kazoo was made in 1840 in Macon, Georgia, but commercial production didn't happening until 1912.  The kazoo is easy to play.  All you do is hum a tune into the kazoo.

Jan. 29:      National Puzzle Day
Jan. 29:      National Cornchip Day

Jan. 30:      National Inane Answering Message Day

Jan. 31:      Backward Day
This is a day to do everything backwards.  It's especially popular with school aged kids.

Wishing you a terrific 2017