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Thursday September 24, 2020

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Groundhog Day in Climax

On what is traditionally called “Groundhog Day”, folks rise early for the annual prediction, making their way—some individually, some in clusters, and often whole families holding hands—to the site of the predicting event. They begin gathering at Rambling Ranch at daybreak, and as time passes, the numbers in front of the ranch house swell steadily. As the throng gathers and waits, the suspense grows. Folks chat with one another, trying to pretend this is just like any other day, but their continual glances toward the ranch house give them away. No, this is not any ordinary day; this is the day in which they will learn the prediction for the nearness of the awaited spring, and upon this prediction much is at stake: crop planting, sheep shearing, goat gland harvesting, heating unit filter replacement, and either cheer or despair for husbands eager to learn when mothers-in-law may be safely placed outdoors.

Eventually a voice is heard to say, “Listen.” Folks hush and cup their ears toward the ranch house. Someone else speaks: “Do you hear it?” Another affirms, “Yes, I hear it.”

Soon, everyone nods; they all hear it. From the ranch house come the unmistakable sounds of my awakening. First come the grizzly grunts as I throw off the covers and sit up on the side of the bed. Hearing that, the people exclaim, “He is risen.”

After a momentary silence, there comes the music that follows: the resounding, tuba-like trumpeting of a titantic nose-blowing, the bugle blast of a belch, and the medley of gas emitted utterances not unlike the playing of scales on a flugelhorn. The crowd harkens to the concert and shouts, “Praise be, he’s alive.”

As I stir from the bed, the people follow my progress within the ranch house from the sounds: the cussing in the bedroom when I step on the open pocketknife I left on the floor, the screech in the kitchen when I spill hot coffee on myself, and the howl they hear near the front door when I attempt to light the left-over cigar stub from the night before and instead set fire to my nose.

By then, the crowd is atwitter, and those who have not already done so, leap to their feet when I throw open the door and step onto the ranch house porch: feet bruised, coffee cup in scalded hand, cigar ablaze, and nose scorched.

As I pause on the porch, small children climb onto their fathers’ shoulders, the better to view me. The spectators silently await while I stand placidly upon the porch, nobly surveying my audience—and scratching. The tension builds as they wait for me, at my own sweet pace, to step into the yard.

Shortly, the multitude is rewarded for its patience. I yawn, scratch one more time for good measure, spit off the porch into the petunias, and walk slowly down the steps, strolling into the yard where I stop before the gathered throng.

The crowd senses that the moment is at hand, the event it has been waiting for, and the people know they must not blink for fear of missing it. I reach for my hat, the one I wear perpetually, even at night in bed. As I do so, some folks lean forward, others draw back, depending upon their individual expectations. Then, I remove my hat—and in that moment, the prediction is made.

Six more weeks of winter weather is assured if the conditions are such that the reflection from the sun bouncing off my bald head is bright enough to blind those poor souls who forgot to bring smoked glass through which to observe this annual ritual. However, if people are able to cast their bare eyes upon my pate and still find their way home without the aid of a guide dog, they know that spring is just around the corner.

Ira McComic

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