Monday, February 1, 2016

No Groundhog for Us

Here in Brevard we do it differently.  Tomorrow, while eyes across the nation turn to view their resident groundhogs, Transylvania County citizens will turn their eyes to Pisgah Pete, our county mascot.  Pisgah Pete is one of our famous* white squirrels.

Since squirrels are fast little devils animals, Pete will not be released from the cage that transports him from his home to the town square.  Thus, he will have no opportunity to see his shadow.  But not to worry.  The town officials have figured out a way for Pete to forecast the weather.  Two signs will be placed, one on the left side and one on the right side of his cage.  One sign will read "yes" and the other sign will read "no."  A designated official will then ask Pete, "Will there be six more weeks of winter?"  Eventually Pete will go toward one side of the cage or the other and that movement will constitute the answer.

Because Pete is so reliable, citizens have been asked to submit "yes or no" questions and a select few will be asked of Pete.  Who knows?  Pete might even tell us who will be the next President.  But I'm going to vote anyway.

Pisgah Pete at last year's gathering
(photo from the local newspaper)

There is no way Pete could see his shadow today.  We still have lingering snow on the ground and much warmer temperatures.  That combination makes for a very foggy day.  And we're expecting rain tomorrow so I don't think he will see a shadow even if that were his preferred prognostication method.

*Famous white squirrels
Florida, 1949.  A carnival truck carrying animals overturns in the town of Madison.  A nearby resident rubs his eyes in disbelief when he glimpses two white squirrels in his pecan grove.  He is impressed by them and thinks they must be albino so he captures them.  He is surprised to find that their eyes are black.  They are not albino at all.  The man gives the squirrels away to a friend.

Here comes the Brevard connection.  The friend had relatives in Brevard and decided the cute little white squirrels would make a nice gift for his niece.  So he brought the squirrels to NC and gave them to his niece.  The niece named the squirrels "SnowBall" and "Frisky."  She loved the squirrels and was disappointed they did not mate.  She kept them for a couple of years and then married and moved away from home.  She did not take the squirrels with her.

Eventually one of the squirrels escaped from the enclosure and ran into the woods.  Fearing the loneliness of the remaining squirrel, her uncle gave the squirrel its freedom.  Released from captivity Frisky and Snowball met up with the native gray squirrels and, as squirrels are wont to do, created many little baby squirrels.  A surprising number of the newly birthed white squirrels began appearing all over the town.  The white squirrels so endeared themselves to the citizens of Brevard that the City Council passed a protection ordinance in 1986.  The ordinance established the city limits of Brevard as a white squirrel sanctuary and made it illegal hunt, kill, trap or otherwise capture any white squirrel within the city.

The squirrels have prospered and at last count, (yes there is an annual count of white squirrels) the white squirrels made up 45% of the squirrel population within the city.  The squirrels have expanded their territory and we occasionally find them here, more than 10 miles up the mountain from Brevard.  In fact, we have seen them in our woods.  They tend not to stay around our house, but some adoring neighbors actually feed squirrels so we will likely see more of them.  We don't even need any ordinance to protect them.  Our community protects all wildlife of any kind.

I snapped this shot of a white squirrel right in our own back yard.
Don't be deceived by its looks.  It's still a tree rat just like its gray kin.

So go ahead and watch your own groundhog or videos of famous Punxsutawney Phil.  Around here folks will be watching Pisgah Pete, the Brevard white squirrel make his prediction.  Any of them will take you away from the Iowa caucus results for a brief instant.

Truth is, spring will come no matter what any animal predicts.  And that makes me happy.


Barbara Rogers said...

Yay for spring coming again!

Anonymous said...

What a great story! I hope you'll let us know what Pisgah Pete predicts tomorrow.

Arkansas Patti said...

What a handsome squirrel. I saw one in Ft. Drum Fl that had a white tail only and wondered. I should have paid more attention to him on Feb 2nd. Cool story.

Vicki Lane said...

So cool! I saw some when I was visiting in Brevard a few years ago. Good to hear the story.

Nance said...

They are so striking! Here in some parts of NEO, we have a few black squirrels, which I always find so endearing. I see them so often in Ontario, Canada, but they are a rarity where I live.

Oddly enough, grey squirrels are very common in my town, and we have none of the reddish-brown ones. One city over, where my sister lives, it's the opposite. But, as you say, the charm of their appearance does little to excuse their overall behaviour.

Ms. A said...

I wouldn't mind seeing those cuties. Mine are just the average ol' tree rat.

From the Kitchen said...

I came here to leave a remark re your comment on my blog. Instead, I've read back on your posts. I am very much in agreement with all you say in a few previous posts. I've often wondered if DJT is serious about his political future. Or, is he just looking for a way to amuse himself and embarrass the U.S.?

I think you need that duck in your freezer! You've had more snow that we have had here in NW Indiana (near Chicago)!! However, our "emergency" duck became necessary during a West Texas Thanksgiving blizzard long ago.


NCmountainwoman said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone.

Barbara - Spring will definitely come.

Robin - Pete predicted an early spring and further predicted a Panther Super Bowl win.

Patti - It is more common that we realize for animals to have parts of their body absent of color. Happens more frequently with birds.

Vicki - Sometimes we drive through town and see quite a few. Then we may drive through for several days before we see even one. Squirrel hater that I am, I must admit the white ones are cool.

Nance - It is surprising the variety of squirrels that are the dominate ones in certain areas.

Ms. A - Some of our squirrels may be white, but I still consider them just as much tree rats as the gray ones.

Bonnie - My husband goes to Fresh Market every Friday morning. This time he'll come home with my emergency duck.

The Bug said...

Well you know what we think about squirrels around here, so thanks for this fabulous white squirrel post! :)

KB said...

I just had to read this post because I get such a kick out of your hatred of squirrels, even the special white ones!