Winter won't go away
Orphie predicts 6 weeks until spring, but lodge members have a grand time anyway on 15-degree morning. By Brian Wallace, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
The heck with Phil. Orphie says we're in for six more weeks of winter.
Octorara Orphie made that prediction before a crowd of nearly 400 people who gathered in the 15-degree chill Saturday morning to celebrate Groundhog Day.
"Let's all have fun, winter is not done. Six more weeks of winter!" bellowed Richard Rankin, hibernating governor of the Slumbering Groundhog Lodge south of Quarryville.
Rankin announced that lodge members, after consulting with Orphie, learned that he had seen his shadow. According to tradition, that means more winter weather lies ahead.
The prediction, made around 8:30 a.m. under blissfully sunny skies, contradicted the earlier prognostication of Punxsutawney Phil, who could not see his shadow under cloudy skies northeast of Pittsburgh.
One of them will be right, anyway.
The Quarryville celebration, held for the past 105 years, was an elaborately fun affair rife with mammal references, tongue-in-cheek limericks about Orphie, the Groundhog Jig and a prison-break skit featuring "The Soggy Bottom Hogs" singing "Groundhog Prison Blues" -- to the tune of Johnny Cash's classic "Folsom Prison Blues."
Lodge members, many wearing top hats and long white coats, some smoking stogies or puffing on elaborate pipes, seemed to relish their (cold) day in the sun, as did the onlookers, who ranged from bundled-up toddlers to amused octogenarians.
New lodge members, known as "babies," underwent the traditional baptism by fire -- a cannon blast above their behinds while bent over on the ground -- and water -- newbie John Girvin had the dubious honor of being dunked into the frigid Octorara Creek.
A longtime Solanco High School science teacher, Girvin also sang the National Anthem to open the celebration.
Girvin said he was more nervous about the singing gig than he was about his dunking debut, which he didn't learn about until 6:30 Saturday morning.
That's when lodge members in the "dunk squad," who had survived their own initiation by water years ago, picked the next victim.
"It's an honor to have this opportunity, it really is," Girvin said after emerging from his cruel double dunk into the fast-moving creek.
"They told me to make sure you do a really good job and maybe get your head under water, and I said, OK, I'll do that," Girvin said.
"But the second time I went in, that brought on an extreme headache and a lot of water in the boots. I thought, 'Please! No more!' "
"I know I made my uncle proud today," he said.
That uncle, Paul Girvin, took a similar plunge when he was initiated into the lodge in 1986. John Girvin's grandfather, Henry Graham, also was a longtime lodge member until his death a few years ago.
It's that family tradition and sense of camaraderie that made him want to join this year, John Girvin said.
"While you're honoring the groundhog and making a prediction, it's also that concept of fraternity and fellowship and interaction with people of all walks of life here -- that's the thing about it," he said of the lodge.
"It's an organization that's not just white collar, it's not just blue collar."
This year's new members include a nuclear technician, a handyman, a funeral director and a railway worker. While their occupations are diverse, they do share some connections.
Of the seven members who joined Girvin as newbies Saturday, five are former students of his or men he had coached as youths in soccer or baseball, he said.
Like all new members, they had to work together on a project to spruce up the "Pinnacle of Prognostication," a manure spreader that serves as the platform from which Orphie's prediction is announced.
Their handiwork included new lettering and wood panels, a bright coat of paint and the addition of two wooden groundhog silhouettes to adorn the spreader's sides.
"Part of the initiation is you build yourselves as a team, and I've really enjoyed getting to know all those guys," Girvin said. "My wife's already met some of the other wives and enjoyed a new network of friends."
Girvin said he's already looking forward to next year's celebration.
As a Christmas present, his aunt gave him his late grandfather's top hat, and Girvin plans to proudly wear it when he participates next Feb. 2 -- and helps pick the next "baby" to take that icy plunge.n