Texas’ Answer to Groundhog Day

Texas’ Answer to Groundhog Day

by Susan Neuhalfen

Groundhog Day is an annual tradition made popular by a Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, newspaper editor who promoted the town’s groundhog as the official mascot named Punxsutawney Phil. As legend goes, if the groundhog sees his shadow he will go back into his den for another six weeks to nap until winter is over. If he does not see his shadow, then spring will arrive early.

Not to be outdone, Texas has two ways of determining the coming of spring. The first is the unofficial mascot of Texas, the armadillo. The second is a 13 foot-long alligator named Big Al.

Armadillo Day
Because the weather in Texas is so unpredictable, not to mention so far from Pennsylvania, Texan Terry Boothe and the Benevolent Knights of the Raccoon started a tradition known as Armadillo Day, which happens coincidently on Groundhog Day. In Bee Cave, Texas, just west of Austin, Terry had his property declared the “West Pole” by none other than the Texas State Legislature. There, Bee Cave Bob is the star. The Armadillo is kept inside a pen in which he has accurately predicted not only the weather, but the political climate in Texas as well for eight straight years.

Here’s how it works: if Bee Cave Bob emerges from his hole, it will be an early spring. He determines the political format in Texas by whether he turns right or left upon leaving his cave.

Bee Cave Bob the Armadillo has his own Facebook page if you want to keep up with all of the activities that day.

Gator Day
Gary Saurage, owner of Gator Country in Beaumont decided that instead of trusting weather predictions to an oversized rodent, he would use the appetite of an oversized alligator instead.

Big Al is a 13 foot-long alligator and a resident at Gator Country. Alligators react to the cold by slowing their metabolic activity during the winter. It’s similar to hibernation in that they don’t eat when it gets below 70 degrees and when it gets even colder they will go so far as to dig out the equivalent of a den and go dormant.

On Gator Day, Gary dangles pieces of chicken in front of Big Al. If Big Al eats the chicken, that means that he is ready to come out of “hibernation” and spring is near. If he refuses (and he has in the past), that means six more weeks of winter.

Follow Big Al’s predictions on the Gator Country Facebook page.


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