I know that my friends hear this from me every year, but I am standing on my soap box once again to pitch my proposal that Canadians ditch the groundhog and the false hope he brings to winter-weary Canadians.
I would like to nominate the Great Canadian Beaver as our Official Prognosticator of Canadian Spring; and move the meteorological prediction date to a more realistic April 2.
I’ve always thought that the observation of Groundhog Day on February 2 was a total waste of time in Canada, especially here on the prairies. We never have spring before the end of March – why would we want a rodent like the groundhog to rub it in? Besides, here in Manitoba, none of the real groundhogs would dare to poke their noses out of their burrows in February – they would freeze their whiskers off. We had to make a puppet – Manitoba Merv, just so we could play along.
I say that we let the Americans keep their Groundhog Day. A much more emblematic rodent in Canada is the Beaver. His glory days were in the early 1600’s when beaver pelts were currency, and his noble image graced the Hudson’s Bay Company’s shield of arms. Today, with the antifur movement, beaver pelts are almost worthless. Beaver tails are still currency, but these days they are turned in for a bounty paid by the province to reduce the population of this noble rodent, condemned to die for the crime of building well engineered homes that unfortunately cause flooding of human dwelling spaces.
I haven’t heard many animal activists trying to save the beaver, perhaps because the little varmints chew down trees that knock down power lines or land on cottage roofs. They are not cute, like the snowy white seal cubs. No one seems to care about the plight of the beaver.
I think that the little fellows need an image makeover and a new purpose that would bring back the respect that they used to garner. I say we replace Groundhog Day in Canada with The Day of the Beaver, and let’s move the prognostication day from February until April. It has happened occasionally that spring in Manitoba starts before the middle of May, so it is more realistic that a beaver in Manitoba could make a prediction in April to let us know if spring might be arriving in less than 6 weeks.
But we don’t just want to replace an American tradition with a different species and a later date. We need some quintessential Canadianisms in the details. I propose that we send the mayor and some city councillors to knock on the door of a local beaver lodge (because we are polite here in Canada), and wait for the beaver family to send out a representative. If he (or she – we are politically correct as well) comes out of the lodge and slaps his/her tail on the ice, that means spring will make an appearance in May. But as Manitobans know, seasons here are reluctant to change, and we may get several false starts before spring weather is here to stay.
If the beaver comes out of his lodge wearing a jersey and waving a stick in his paw, that means we will have at least six more weeks of hockey.