On This Date in History:
Abraham Lincoln was a one term Congressman from Illinois. He had an arrangement with the Whig party from Illinois from to rotate the seat and so his former law partner, Stephen Logan ran in his place after one term. But, Logan lost for several reasons, one might have been because of Lincoln’s steadfast opposition to the Mexican War. He thought that the war was nothing but a land grab by President James K. Polk. But, patriotism had gotten the bulk of the public to support the war.
Well, things didn’t go so well for Mexico under Santa Anna, the same guy who lost Texas. In fact, the Mexican War started over a dispute about the southern border of Texas, which by that time had become part of the United States. So, with things well in hand, President Polk did exactly what Lincoln had accused him of doing. He sent Nicholas P. Trist to Mexico City in May 1847 to offer the Mexicans terms for surrender. But, there were mistakes and confusion and Polk lost patience with Trist and recalled him in October. But, Trist disobeyed orders and stayed in Mexico to try and finish the job. On January 25, 1848, Trist successfully negotiated a treaty to end the war. The agreement became known as the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and called for Mexico to accept $15 million in exchange for the end of the war and ceding the area of present day California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. The treaty was signed on this date in 1848 and in the spring the Senate voted for approval.
Trist did a great job. He ended the war and got a good deal on a good chunk of the west and southwest United States that would later yield riches far far in excess of the $15 million paid. In a twist of good timing…gold was discovered in California just the day before the treaty was agreed to. So, did he receive a hero’s welcome back in Washington? No. Polk fired him for insubordination.
In a story we visted a few days ago, James Marshall, who is the man who first discovered gold in California on January 24, 1848 ,died a pauper and the man who negotiated the treaty that brought California into the United States the very next day also ended up a less than glorified citizen. For most of the rest of his life, Nicholas P. Trist worked as a low level clerk for a railroad. It wasn’t until 1870 that someone figured that Trist deserved something and he was officially recognized for his achievement. He fared better than James Marshall of Gold Rush Fame…he finally got his back pay in 1871 and became the consul in Havana.
So, the guy did his job and got the results he was sent to get. But, he didn’t do it the way the President wanted and he is largely erased from history. A case of procedure trumping results. Perhaps Trist would have done better to recognize the date on the calendar and run back into his hole like the groundhog instead of returning home.
What About the Groundhog? Alright…look…there is all sorts of stuff about the Groundhog and how he got his own day. The first recognition of Ground Hog Day in Punxsutawney, PA was in in 1887. But, most accounts I see take it back to German tradition but I’ve also seen suggestions it goes back to the Gregorian calendar and all sorts of things. In other words, there doesn’t seem to be any consensus. The tale of course is that if the Groundhog sees his shadow, he gets scared, runs back into his hole and there are 6 more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, then there will be an early spring. So, if it’s sunny, its bad and if its cloudy then its good. Keep in mind that meteorologically, Spring starts a little more than 6 weeks after Groundhog Day. The official site associated with Punxsutawney Phil is more general with the origins of Groundhog Day goes back to Europe and Candlemas Day, which is associated with the Christian Faith.
But, I found out more about the groundhog. It’s really a rodent in the squirrel family. Also known as the infamous woodchuck of how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood fame. It’s also known as a land beaver or whistlepig. The ground hog typically has a 2 to 3 year lifespan but if its in an area without many predators like wolves, bears, hawks, coyotes and bobcats then it can live up to 6 years in the wild or 10 years in captivity. Now, he doesn’t have a long life so he makes the most of it. A groundhog can dig up to 700 pounds of dirt digging just one den. And the guy can dig up to 5 dens. I suppose that means that he is not necessarily a one woman man….because if he’s got 5 dens then he’s got 5 families! Scandalous….that groundhog! Of course, I’m not sure who does the digging the male or the female so perhaps the guy is also a slacker and makes the woman do the digging while he is off visiting of his other dens. It’s possible this groundhog may be a deadbeat.
Well, please don’t take out your displeasure on the poor little guy…though he can get kinda big and fat. He eats plants and things and if he’s in an area with lots of alfalfa and its safe, he can get as big as 32 inches and weigh up to 30 pounds….or about the size of my fat cats. If you chase him he’s got great claws for all of that digging and is also an excellent climber. Corner him on a lake and he will swim away as he is quite comfortable in the water. And if you try to ponk him on the head, it won’t do much because he has an extra dense cranial bone. I suspect that the cute little guy can get pretty angry when annoyed.
Let’s leave the groundhog alone! A Canadian study found that different places use a number of different groundhogs for monitoring. There were 13 in the study, including Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania and General Lee in Atlanta. The study found that collectively they only had a 37% accuracy rate. I certainly do not advocate any untoward behaviour against my competitors that don’t quite measure up to our standards. No, just leave the groundhog alone and let him do what he does best….which apparently is not forecasting. Let him live his life scandalous life in peace. And while we’re at it, let us call on PETA to go after the guys in the top hats who annually grab poor old Phil out of his den and hold him up for all to see. We should pull the guy out of bed at sunrise and display him in the public square and see how much he likes it. I bet he’d run back into his hole.
Weather Bottom Line: For what it’s worth, Old Punxsatawney Phil saw his shadow so that means 6 more weeks of winter. When you look at your calendar, that also says 6 more weeks of winter. Hmm…anyway, the balance of the week looks pretty pedestrian and seasonally chilly. Oh, we’ll have some slight variations but the overall temperatures should be around the average of 43 for a high and lows around 26 or 27. At the end of the week, we have an interesting system. Interesting in that we will get precipitation but its a bit unclear what kind. At this time, it seems likely we get a little of everything. Some models are calling for rain, others snow. But, the critical thickness lines are kinda stradling the region. The general story features a surface low running up the SE US with an upper low around our area and the general consensus is that the upper portion of the storm hangs out in the Ohio Valley while the surface low swings around for a couple of days. Guess here is that we have light rain that turns to snow with some accumulations and I bet the temperatures are a little colder than the generally broadcast forecasts.