Tomorrow is Ground Hog Day, when the United States finds out whether spring comes on time this year or we have winter for six more weeks.
At the appointed time in Punxsutawney, Penn., local officials ask Phil the Groundhog to crawl outside and predict the end of winter.
If Phil sees his shadow, we enjoy six more weeks of cold weather.
If he doesn’t, the worst of winter is over, even though the official start of spring isn’t until the third week in March.
While it’s more random than a simple coin toss – like playing the Ground Hog Day round in ‘Bad Piggies’ – knowing when spring comes is simple if you live here.
How the hell do Floridians know if winter is over?
We don’t live up north, most of us on purpose, and much more often than not, it’s sunny here.
On top of that, there really isn’t any organized Groundhog Day movement, in Greater Jacksonville or even in GR8RJax™.
However, several different places in Florida do celebrate the rites of spring on Feb. 2.
Sebring, Fla., has a chapter of The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club headquartered in Coconut Creek.
Down south they have ‘Lantana Lou,’ former Lantana, Fla., councilman Lou Canter, who stands on the beach and declaims winter’s end for tourists.
In Mt. Dora, about as close as Jacksonville and environs get to an actual GHD celebration, a gopher tortoise name Millie and a “hare” (a rabbit named Mike) “race” with Punxsutawney Phil to to see if winter is over yet.
Sometimes they even lose to that Yankee rat up north.
What we need is the right mascot
So what Florida wildlife should we look to so that we will almost always be right about when winter’s over?
Some may advocate for the armadillo, but because they’re nocturnal and because of where their eyes are positioned in their heads, they almost always look at the ground (because they eat ants and that’s where most ants live).
Not a good choice if you don’t want shadows to be seen so that winter can be over – for purposes of betting and otherwise.
Candidate No. 2 is another living fossil, the good old possum.
Fond of both cockroaches and dogfood – and also nocturnal – possums aren’t good bets on Ground Hog Day either.
A much better and more unique candidate for Florida Groundhog is our wonderful, butt-ugly manatees.
Their eyes are canted so that they almost always look up (because they live underwater and breathe air) and, therefore, almost never see their own shadows.
And surely this is the point.
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OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org