The Journey to Florida, day 2! ~ By Tom ~

rural-valley-pa-to-morgantown-wv-day-2-capture

Rural Valley, PA to Morgantown, WV. http://www.usathroughoureyes.com

Hello everyone.  Here is the low down on Day 2 of our journey.  It was beautiful waking up at Silver Canoe Campground in Rural City, PA.   After walking around and exploring the campground it was time to move on.  Our decided trip for the day was to head back up north again along route 210 toward Punxsutawney, PA. and from there eventually bringing us to Morgantown, PA.  Our route was so scenic and the little communities we passed through each had so much individuality.  We are so glad we made the time to check out the historical community of Punxsutawney, PA. and spend some time searching for Punxsutawney Phil, that little groundhog critter that supposedly can predict when Spring will come.  We discovered this place has quite a history and the Punxsutawney’s Groundhog, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary has a legend pre-dating the area’s first white settlers.

The first inhabitants of the area, the Delaware Indians, shared in the Punxsutawney “Groundhog” roots with their own Indian version of “legend and lore.”  Punxsutawney was originally a campsite halfway between the Allegheny and Susquehanna rivers. It is located on the earliest known trail to the East, the Shamokin path. The area was, at times, occupied by Shawnee or Delaware Indians and, sometimes, by Seneca’s or Iroquois.  Per the original “Creation” Story of the Delaware Indians, the “Lenni Lenape” (or original people), who were their forebears, began life as animals in “mother earth” and emerged centuries later to hunt and live as men. Thus it was that Oijik (Wejak), or Wojak, which was carried over to us as “‘Woodchuck”, came to be recognized as the “grandfather” of the earliest known inhabitants of this area.  Although the area previously served as a “border” between Indian nations, the displaced Delaware’s settled in large numbers about 1723 because of the pressures from white men in the East and Iroquois intrigue. The main move toward the west followed between l740 and l760 as the result of further pressure.  It was during this period that an lndian sorcerer first appeared in various forms and attacked travelers from the East. He was hunted and killed in combat by a young chief. His body was burned to destroy the “evil medicine” but miraculously turned to searing sandflies, or “ponksad,” which plagued the area and the Indians. From that time the Indians called the location, ” Ponksaduteney,” which meant the “town of the sandflies.” The sandflies are now gone, but the “ghost of the spelling” is with us to stay.

Phil is 130 years old, supposedly. The average groundhog lives to be between 6-8 years, but Phil takes a magical elixir every summer to extend his lifespan. The elixir also changes his appearance (much like the Doctor in “Doctor Who”), which explains why Phil may be grey one year and a youthful brown the next.  Alas, the elixir does not work on humans.

When Phil comes out of his stump on Gobbler’s Knob on Groundhog Day, he has a conversation with the president of the Inner Circle of the Groundhog Club in Groundhogese. The president then announces Phil’s prediction.  Phil is extremely accurate, he’s never wrong. Sometimes, however, the president doesn’t translate Phil’s prediction accurately — which is why sometimes it looks like Phil got it wrong.

Groundhog day itself has its roots in Candlemas Day, A holiday for early Christians. That tradition was brought to Germany by the Romans and somehow morphed into a way to predict weather. If a hedgehog saw its shadow, there would be bad weather.  German settlers of Pennsylvania brought the tradition with them, and opted to use a groundhog rather than a hedgehog for their prognostication needs.

The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club was founded in 1887 by a group of groundhog hunters and included in its members’ the editor of the Punxsutawney newspaper. He claimed that Phil was the only legit weather predicting groundhog and eventually Phil became famous.

Phil has had many wives. While Phil has an extended lifespan, his wives do not partake in the elixir so they pass away like normal groundhogs do. Phil always finds love again, though.  “He’s probably had more wives than Hugh Hefner.” Ploucha said. Phil’s current wife is called Phyllis – of course.

Was that Punxsutawney Phil in “Groundhog Day”?  Nope. Phil had a full schedule and was not able to partake in the filming of the movie. In the Bill Murray movie, he is played by a groundhog named Scooter – who bit the actor three times during filming.  Phil was Murray’s first choice for the role, of course. “He’s treated like royalty and is very well-behaved. A true professional,” the actor told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1993.  “So when they couldn’t get him – a creature who has been hand-raised since birth and is very tame – what did they do? They went out into the woods and caught this Scooter, a groundhog who hated my guts from day one.”

For citizens of Punxsutawney, PA., Feb 2. is a major holiday, and one that helps support the economy for the borough of 5,500 people and the entire region?  Fact report this event brings in over $1 million to the local economy every year.  It is reported that approximately 20,000-25,000 visitors descend on the town to see if “Punxsutawney Phil” will spy his shadow, filling the hotels, restaurants and shops of the town and surrounding area. It is reported the average visitor spends $200 on lodging, food, gas and souvenirs during their stay, meaning that tourists could bring in as much as $5 million to the local economy.  There are 600 hotel rooms in Jefferson County, where Punxsutawney is located, and another 2,000 in neighboring counties — all of which are booked solid.

Well, there you have it!  The scoop on Punxsutawney Phil.  Emma just had to pose among the many statues of the famous critter.

usathroughoureyes
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    • usathroughoureyes

      Isn’t it funny how sometimes the interest of the world are right in our back yard and we never pause to look at it. I’ve done that for so many years now we stop, look and listen everywhere we go. Its so fascinating to hear the stories behind the stories.

      Liked by 3 people

      Reply
  1. poeturja

    Really enjoyed this! I’m from Philly and my son was born on February 2nd so I naturally called him Punxatawney Phil as an endearment, not his real name 🙂 I think the joke began to wear off when he was in his 20’s (or he got brave enough to roll his eyes at me and tell me to stop!). Looking forward to reading more about your trip.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
  2. prior..

    This is wonderful – and will have refer to this post on Groundhog Day! Seriously – what a great post to put in the blogosphere!
    And I want some of that elixir – oh wait – does not work on humans!
    Ha!
    Love the history and pics…..
    Safe travels you two

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

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