Groundhogs? We don’t need no stinkin’ groundhogs!
“Me and a band of my comrades put together Armadillo Day, and we did it on Groundhog Day just in defiance of having a Yankee source for our weather forecast,” says Terry Boothe, a self-employed real estate professional and self-described “Texas chauvinist” who lives in Bee Cave. (That’s about as close as he’ll come to divulging the location of the event, which is more or less private due to crowd concerns.)
“I was indignant about a groundhog from Pennsylvania forecasting the weather for Texas. Being, essentially, our own country, I thought we needed our own weather forecast,” Boothe says in a friendly, syrupy Southern drawl.
So every Feb. 2 — today marks the sixth year for the event — Boothe and friends gather for chili and tamales and watch an armadillo named “Bee Cave Bob” exit a burrow on the center line of a concrete slab painted to resemble a roadway.
“If the armadillo turns around and goes back in his hole, of course, we’re gonna have six more weeks of bad weather,” Boothe explains. “If he stays and does not go back in his burrow, then he’ll walk down that (center) line.”
Bob is a political animal: If he goes to the right, Boothe says, we’ll have more conservative trends in politics, and if he goes to the left, the climate will be more liberal.
The festivities are overseen by “a serious weatherologist” named Professor Al Manac and his sidekicks, Hugh Midity and Wayne Gauge, who lead the proceedings from a stage overlooking the armadillo pit. The trio are presumably members of the Benevolent Knights of the Raccoon, a fraternal organization Boothe and his buddies started about a decade ago after getting a phone pole on his family property formally designated as the “West Pole” by the Texas State Legislature.
“I decided that if there was a North Pole and a South Pole, there had to be an East Pole and a West Pole and, to my knowledge, nobody had claimed the West Pole,” Boothe says. The 98th meridian, which he claims Walter Prescott Webb and other famous Texas writers and historians have denoted as “the beginning of the west,” runs through Bee Cave.
Bob, who is kept and handled by Ralph Fisher of Ralph Fisher’s Photo Animals in La Grange, generally forecasts an early spring, Boothe says, and not by manipulation. “That just seems to be the way it’s been turning.”
No, they’re not serving groundhog
One of our favorite “Groundhog Day” venues (meaning we’d be happy to go there day after day after day after day) is Austin’s own Alamo Drafthouse.
The cinema’s Food & Film program is showing the 1993 Bill Murray movie paired with a three-course dinner (pie over and over and over — as a quiche, a pot pie and a dessert) at a trio of its locations Monday: the Ritz and Lakeline (7 p.m.) and Slaughter Lane (7:20 p.m.).
For information and tickets ($35), visit www.drafthouse.com.
Test your “Groundhog Day” knowledge
You’ve probably seen “Groundhog Day,” the existential 1993 Bill Murray movie directed by Harold Ramis (if you haven’t, go rent or buy it online now). If your luck is like that of Murray’s weatherman character, Phil Connors, who is forced to live the same day over and over, you might have seen it hundreds of times. But how well do you really know the film? Let’s find out.
1. Which town’s square stood in for Pennsylvania’s Gobbler’s Knob in the film?
a. Woodstock, Ill.
b. Georgetown, Texas
c. Decatur, Ga.
d. Bardstown, Ky.
2. How does Connors explain his piano prowess to his teacher when she confirms that this is his first lesson?
a. He says he’s a quick learner, but only where music is concerned.
b. He claims to have shaken hands with Billy Joel.
c. He explains that his father was a piano mover.
d. He jokes that he always thought piano was a key instrument.
3. In which of these ways is Connors not depicted trying to end it all?
a. Dropping a toaster into his bath
b. Getting shot by a jealous boyfriend
c. Driving a truck over a cliff
d. Leaping from the town’s clocktower
4. How much time did director Harold Ramis estimate (in the DVD commentary) that Connors must have spent repeating the same day over and over?
a. 10 years
b. 27 years
c. 1,000 years
d. 10,000 years
5. How many times was Bill Murray bitten by a groundhog during the filming of the movie?
c. Five times
d. He was never bitten.
1.a; 2.c; 3.b; 4.a; 5.b
Why armadillos are cooler than groundhogs:
- Blobby, nondescript shadow
- Can’t spell Punxsutawney
- Is hairy
- Another name for woodchuck
- Lyric: “Run here, Sally, with a 10-foot pole/To twist this whistle-pig out of his hole” (Doc Watson, “Groundhog”)
- Cool, refined shadow
- Bee Cave easy to spell
- Wears armor
- Another name for awesome
- Lyric: “I’m sayin’ son you’ll see me searchin’; sizzlin’ down that broad highway/Dollar signs in both my eyes, I’m seekin’ out my prey” (Robert Earl Keen, “The Armadillo Jackal”)