I’ll admit it. I’m not proud.
I lived in Wiarton.
Not voluntarily, you understand. If you’ve ever been to Wiarton for any length of time you’ll know just how involuntary was most people’s habit of living in that particular place. My geography teacher’s wife was from Paris, and he was an internationally known geography expert whose work was taught at universities around the world. And he moved his family there because of the amazing glacial features of the landscape. She and my mother became soulmates because she spoke not one word of English and couldn’t make out a Quebecois accent at all, and my mother still remembered the Pidgin Parisian she’d used when she was there back in the days when Kennedy was President and the world was bigger. So they spent hours on the phone talking about how much each of them hated the place. But the geography teacher was right: the place was spectacular.
Spectacular, yes. Spectacularly stupid as well. The high school boasted an 86% dropout rate the year I went to Grade 10, the graduating class was six people, and one of my acquaintances had to drop out of Girl Guides because she was pregnant and getting married. That woman has a thirty year old daughter now. And probably several ex-husbands, if the Peyton Place nature of the town hasn’t changed.
It got to everyone. My father moved out of our house and moved in with the mother of a classmate of mine for a few months, which led to an awful lot of “gee, look at that wall over there on the other side of the room from him” and much the same from his side, as he was about as pleased with this arrangement as I was. His mother used to get drunk and call my mother in tears, asking for advice on handling my father, and my mother enjoyed giving her detailed instructions on how to do exactly the wrong thing, until the sheer pointlessness of the drama got to her and she got the operator to block that number. The operator said, “Oh, honey, I don’t blame you.” Everyone in that town knew everyone else, and was probably related to them by blood.
Groundhog Day. It’s a post about Groundhog Day.
The English have King Arthur. The French have Joan of Arc, Roland and Oliver. And this is what we have:
The Legend of Wiarton Willy…….In the deep dark ages of antiquity (1956 or there about) the ancient rituals of Candlemas were replaced by the celebrations of Williemas. A secret emissary of three wise groundhogs had broken hibernation to bring the glad tidings to the small community of Oliphant. There in a shack on the shores of Lake Huron they found Mac McKenzie anticipating a message of great import.
The three wise groundhogs named Grundoon, Muldoon, and Sand Dune told Mac of the birth of a white groundhog who would for ever alter the world of weather prognostication. He would be recognized by his white coat and pink eyes and his unfailing ability to correctly predict the remaining course of each winter. He would emerge each February 2nd and pronounce his predictions only to those who spoke the ancient tongue of Groundhogese.
With a joyful heart and the help of revelling friends Mac went forth and spread the great news. Thus from the simple message delivered on Williemas eve to the grateful residents of Oliphant has grown the true meaning of winter….”Party On” ~ Copyright 1999 Wiarton Willie Organization
Wiarton’s true claim to fame is Wiarton Willie, the (to all intents and purposes immortal) albino groundhog who pops his head out of the burrow to make mystical predictions just like Miss Cleo every February 2nd except for the ones on which he is dead, whereupon the farmer pretends that he came out JUST BEFORE the CBC crews arrived, and then goes and buys another albino groundhog on the black (white?) market to have something to show off.
It happened twice while my family lived there. If you think the coverup of Paul McCartney‘s death was thorough, you ain’t seen a redneck town when its only claim to fame is on the line. They mobilized every 4×4 and skidoo they could find, saddled up, and rode off in search of contraband Marmota Monax.
I think they got the swollen, matted rodent from a furry brothel in Thailand.
Keeping a groundhog, even a famous one, alive in a town where the favorite sport is shooting/throwing beer cans at things out the window of the pickup, is no small feat, but it is one to which the town of Wiarton was not really up.
One year, they got caught with a dead WW on their hands and decided to brazen it out by holding a funeral. Unfortunately, the funeral was organized by the Wiartonese, and turned into your common or garden clusterfuck. First, they had no magical white groundhog on Groundhog Day, so refunds to the tourists were in order. There goes the beer money till Pogey comes in! Then, they got caught switching the bodies (they’d apparently been keeping a store of dead WW’s in a freezer somewhere, or perhaps they simply dialed up that Thai furry brothel and ordered a fresh one strangled and delivered; did they tip the delivery guy, I wonder?).
Organizers say they decided to keep the news quiet so as not to dampen the festivities. According to Wiarton Willie’s official website, Willie “..asked only that we withhold this information until February 2nd so that it would not spoil the festivities which he loved so dearly.”
Apparently, Willie gave his weather prediction a bit early. In his will, organizers say he forecasted an early spring.
That’s a lie. You can’t fool me. I know none of those people can read!
And so we come, in a roundabout, 4:50am way, to the Groundhog Queen.
As England has her May Queen and America has Miss America and the known space-time continuum has Miss Universe, so Wiarton has its Groundhog Queen. Or had; you think I’m going back there to check after what I’ve said about this place? Okay, they don’t have a pathetic raft of groundhog songs and games and party activities like Punxsutawney, but that’s just because they can’t form such complex thoughts.
That’s right: the annual beauty contest winner was crowned the Groundhog Queen. And yes, people actually competed for this.
One year, in fact, the quarterback of the high school football team competed for it. If memory serves, his father was a lawyer, and so his genetically beady eyes noticed the rules said nothing about having to be female. So he entered. This, I HAD to see, and so I did, and am glad I did because to this day that “evening gala” remains the sole high point of my time served in Wiarton. He was quite prepared to wear a two-piece bathing suit and heels if required to do so, which in point of fact he was not because I believe they changed the rules that very year. Unfortunately for the audience, the judging of the swimsuit competition took place backstage, so that the contestants would not be objectified.
While being judged on how they filled out a swimsuit.
In any case and however it may be and so it came to pass, he ended up second runner-up, a bona fide Groundhog Princess. And Forbes Collins, if you’re still out there, I salute you.
If you’re still in Wiarton, I encourage you to leave town. Remember: The smart ones get out, the dumb ones get pregnant.