VIENNA, Va., February 1, 2012 — While much of the weather prognosticating world will be heading to Pennsylvania and the home of one Punxsutawney Phil, said to be a valid predictor of the end or continuation of winter, large crowds will also be going South.
The Yellow River Game Ranch in Gwinnett County, GA, just outside of Atlanta, boasts the Southern response to the Yankee Phil in the personage of General Beauregard Lee, a groundhog that swaggers in the way of Rhett Butler, but whose quiet demeanor reminds one more of Ashley Wilkes.
As befits his station in life, Beau lives in a white-columned Southern mansion, complete with an architectural water fountain, a mailbox for his large correspondence, a granite marker as well as a doormat and a sundial. Additionally there is a satellite dish so that he can keep up with weather in other areas, as well as an occasional Animal Planet episode to his liking.
While groundhogs in the wild may live only four or five years, those in the rarefied Georgia confines like Beau have lived quite some time beyond their normal allotment of years. The original General Beau still resides there in retirement, and the current General Beau is his teenaged bachelor nephew now 17 years young. And yes, there IS a lady in his life.
Beau’s Big Day on Thursday
His hours and schedule may be erratic, but he actually “works” only on February 2, and media from far and wide follow his every waddle. In order to keep the news current and fresh, his office at Beau’s “Weathering Heights Plantation” is open for weather advisories and updates beginning at 6:00 a.m. daily.
Callers from all over the world contact the office for necessary information and forecasts.
No slouch he, Beau has twice been recognized by the National Weather Advisory for the accuracy of his predictions. The sage prognosticator has two honorary doctorates, one as “DWP” – Doctor of Weather Prognostication – and one as a Doctor of Southern Groundology.
Beau is awakened each year by the playing of Reveille, to which he responds fairly rapidly (for a groundhog). Beau has made appearances on the Today Show and obviously on Animal Planet, where he is a regular February star.
The whole groundhog prediction idea first came to General Beau’s keepers when they realized that their charge actually did come to life on February 2, the day named for his kin, and decided to make sure that the Sunny South was as deserving of meteorological representation as a Yankee town on Gobbler’s Knob.
The two groundhogs seem never to have met, and since each no doubt had rodentia ancestors fighting in the Big War in 1861, it is probably just as well. Both wearing heavy gray coats, it would be difficult to ascertain the correct side.
The Legends of Animal Forecasters
It was long ago and far away in the 5th century when wise people realized that animals frequently evidenced supernatural ways on special days, and that usually these days fell about halfway between the winter equinox and the spring solstice. In Europe they discovered that bears, hedgehogs and groundhogs came out of hibernation at that time, but that if they came out too early to like the weather outside, they would see their shadows and return to the den to continue their sleep for six weeks. And so a legend began.
It was left to organized religion to put the icing on the groundhog cake, since the “Candlemas Day” was once considered part of a pagan Roman holiday, and then morphed into both the day Jesus was presented at the Temple, forty days after his birth, and Groundhog Day. Hedgehogs being less common in the U.S., the groundhog was a natural.
Current investigation indicates that Beau is totally disinterested in the ongoing, never-ending debates and primaries or whether the economy goes up or down. As long as his verandah has a complement of fresh vegetables every day as well as some salad and other goodies, he will be happy to continue his annual duties until the time comes for him to ascend to the Big Mansion in the sky.
Beau is a thoroughly modern mammal and even has his own PR group. They may be reached by calling Area Code 770-972-6643, and he may be viewed on the Ranch website, which is www.yellowrivergameranch.com.
Special thanks to Stefanie Reeves of Yellow River Game Ranch, home of some 1,200 animals, for providing the excellent picture of General Beauregard Lee, groundhog extraordinaire!
Happy Groundhog Day to all!
Feb. 2 UPDATE: Despite skinning his little nose trying to run away, General Lee came out of his mansion at 7:35 a.m. amid a light shower and failed to see his shadow. Thus spring is around the corner!!!
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