Soon we will know whether to expect a longer spell of winter weather. “Punxsutawney Phil” will emerge from his hole on February 2 after a long winter sleep to look for his shadow on Groundhog Day. If he sees it, we can count on another six weeks of bad weather, while Phil retreats back underground. If the day is cloudy and shadowless, the plucky fellow takes it as a sign of spring and stays up here.
Folks in the town of Punxsutawney have popularized the highly anticipated event with their annual celebration, attended by thousands of tourists who arrive to witness the “Most Photographed Pennsylvanian” as he performs the dependable ritual with the assistance of the “Inner Circle,” a group of top-hat-clad dignitaries with titles like “The Big Windmaker,” “Sun Beamer,” and “Thunder Conductor.”
Phil’s 2011 prediction will be his 125th. He gets his longevity from drinking a sip of the secret “groundhog punch” served at the Groundhog Picnic, which gives him seven more years of life.
Just in time for the big day on February 2, local photographer Jeffrey R. Sidle and local author Heather Martin have published their first book, “A Hole Other Matter,” featuring the admittedly adorable but much maligned critter also known as the woodchuck or whistlepig.
Sidle and Martin have planned a special event to promote the launch of the book and to celebrate Groundhog Day (see sidebar).
The playful book features full-color photos taken in Wayne and Pike counties and imaginative stories that introduce August and June Forecaster, Bonnie Heinywagger, Lady Plum Pudding, Amanda Snicklegizzard and other whimsical woodchucks. Each story ends with a question meant to stimulate the reader’s thoughts on a particular situation.
Martin and Sidle have worked together on various projects over the years, and both enjoy nature and value humor. Martin was inspired to write the stories after seeing Sidle’s pictures of the groundhogs. One thing led to another, and they ended up with a book.
The pair learned all they could about self-publishing, then formed Marmot Productions, LLC to publish the book in order to “make folks think, smile and appreciate wildlife.”
Sidle, a resident of Hawley, who owns and operates The Print Shop of Milford with his wife and business partner, drew upon his background in printing and graphic design when he put the book together. Sidle says he has enough additional photos of groundhogs for a possible sequel.