The first weather forecast by a rodent meteorologist took place on February 2, 1887, in the metropolis of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. His groupies, members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, in an effort to stifle all competition, declared that Phil (for that was his name), the Punxsutawney groundhog, was the one and only true weather-forecasting groundhog in all of North America. Pay no mind to those wanna-bes like Birmingham Bill, Staten Island Chuck, or Canada’s Shubenacadie Sam. Phil’s original prediction has been lost to history, but it was either six more weeks of winter or an early spring.
As a celebrity, Punxsutawney Phil can be temperamental, occasionally biting or scratching an adoring fan if given the chance, but Phil’s rude behavior doesn’t hold a candle to that of Staten Island Chuck. Sure New Yorkers are accused of being rude and Staten Islanders are certainly outliers — but biting the mayor that feeds you is a bit over the top.
The lucky mayor was Michael Bloomberg, the occasion was Groundhog Day 2009, and some would say it was the mayor’s own fault. Practically anyone, groundhog or otherwise, would not enjoy being roused out of a deep sleep at seven in the morning and asked to pontificate on the weather. Chuck wasn’t up for the celebration and the mayor was just a little too persistent, so of course Chuck bit him. Wouldn’t you?
Later in the day, Mayor Bloomberg, his left finger bandaged, was keeping mum. “Given the heightened response against terrorism, and clearly in this case a terrorist rodent who could very well have been trained by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, I’m not at liberty to say any more than that,” the mayor said.
The Human Fly Saw His Shadow
On February 2, 1912, a brave steeplejack jumped from the torch platform of the Statue of Liberty, some 345 feet above the ground. He fell like a dead weight for 75 feet before his parachute opened and he floated safely to the ground, 30 feet from the water’s edge. Pathé News paid him $1,500 for his derring-do, which they filmed. Frederick Rodman Law, who became known as the Human Fly, went on to perform other feats, jumping from the Brooklyn Bridge and from a dynamited balloon above the Hudson River. A short movie career followed, and he is widely credited as being the first motion picture stuntman. He died in 1919 of tuberculosis.