News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 8, 2011

MS. TAKES: Let’s hope furry Phil got this one right

Liz Ciancone
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — I hope Punxsutawney Phil knows his business.

He certainly isn’t overworked. As the nation’s foremost weather creature, he makes an annual appearance to let us know whether we are going to have more winter or that spring is just days away. Annually, on Feb. 2, some top-hatted local official reaches into Phil’s groundhog home where he has been hibernating. The creature is held aloft while a crowd of humans stands agog waiting for Phil’s prediction — if he sees his shadow, we’re stuck. I’m not sure what happens if he doesn’t see his shadow — maybe he just slinks back into his burrow and has an early breakfast with the wife and kids.

This year his public was told — by humans, not necessarily endorsed by a blinking Phil — that he did not see his shadow. If he knows his business, this interminable winter is nearing an end — none too soon for most of us.

I’m not sure the verdict was accurate. The publicity shots showed a squirming Phil held aloft and it certainly looked like sunshine to me. Maybe it was only flash bulbs or flood lights. Does it count if the shadow is man-induced? Only Phil would know and he’s not talking. He’s probably sleeping off the fatigue from his guest shot.

I’m not sure either whether his prediction applies throughout the country or merely to Punxsutawney and environs. I’ve a friend in Scranton who has had a winter to remember and certainly hopes the little fellow knows what he’s doing.

As for our area, Phil no sooner scurried back into his hole in the ground than we had an ice storm topping a snow storm which was finished off with a frosting of snow. Emergency rooms were going a brisk business setting broken limbs.

If Phil had been handy and I could have crossed the ice without a tumble, I’d have had a few words with the little guy.

Poor Phil. So much is on his furry little shoulders. He always looks as if he would rather be almost anyplace but held high on public view.

I am sure that given a choice he would simply phone it in. He could set his alarm, peek out at sunrise — before Mr. Top Hat was out of bed — and leave a message on his cell phone: “Saw shadow. Order another ton of coal!” Or, more acceptable to us winter-weary Midwesterners, “Cloudy. Go ahead and get out the summer underwear!”

As far as Phil is concerned, spring will soon be upon us. I hope he knows what he’s doing or he’s apt to lose his meteorology license.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star education reporter. Her weekly columns have appeared on this page for more than 20 years. Send e-mail to