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Hello February and welcome Leap Day

By William H. Baker

Contributing Writer

Since 2020 is a leap year, have you been reminded of the traditional verse “Thirty days hath September…”

As a child, I remember the verse from experiences at home and in school.

And through the years, I have learned that there must be at least 30 versions that folks have devised to help us remember the number of days in the 12 months.

One of poems declares “Thirty days hath September, April, June and November. All the rest have 31, except February alone, which has 28 rain or shine, except for leap year, 29.”

As Americans who talk a lot about the weather, we start the month with attention diverted to radio and television reports from Gobblers Knob, the temporary home of Punxsutawney Phil. Feb. 2 is the day, and Phil is the groundhog from whom we get signals on whether spring will arrive early each year.

Since 1887, the legendary groundhog has found his place in most of our lives. Who among us isn’t interested in whether after Feb. 2 we will have six more weeks of winter weather or whether spring is just around the corner?

Our grandparents and previous generations may have relied more heavily on the Old Farmers’ Almanac founded in 1792 and available in 2020 on the internet. After all, it was almost a hundred years after the almanac was founded that the country turned its attention to Punxsutawney Phil.

Here in the tri-state area farmers and farm families in particular followed the old almanac where they could get long-range weather forecasts. And they used those forecasts to make more informed decisions about their work and their lives that depended on the weather.

Today’s generation can follow weather forecasts, both short and long term, easily on the newspaper’s website and on radio and television. For those with a keen interest in history, they can turn to the Old Farmers’ Almanac which has been published since the earliest days of our country.

If there are school-age children or other youngsters in your household, remind them that we each have an extra day in this year. It’s referred to as “leap day.” It offers us an extra 24 hours which won’t be available again for four more years.

The day is associated with age-old customs, folklore and superstition. One of the most well-known traditions is that women propose to their boyfriends instead of the other way around.

Maybe you can start a new family tradition and use leap day as a special occasion. Read a new book. See an old movie. Take the family to Cumberland Gap and walk the historic pathways in the park. If you are a golfer, invite your son or daughter to enjoy a game at one of the nation’s oldest golf courses.

Make the ending of February 2020 memorable in your own way.

Dr. William H. Baker is a Claiborne County native and former Middlesboro resident. Email: wbaker@limestone.edu