Technically, February is the shortest month. But, realistically, it always seems like the longest. It drags on and on and on. February, and its equally slow-moving neighbour, March, just crawl along as we count the days and wait for some little glimmer of spring to appear.
So while we’re waiting, here are a few highlights from the February calendar:
February 2 — Groundhog Day. This is the day that assorted groundhogs do their best to provide a little comic relief amid this drab old month. The most notable of these creatures are Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania, Wiarton Willie in Ontario, Winnipeg Willow at The Forks, and Manitoba Merv at Oak Hammock Marsh.
Every February 2, people gather expectantly around groundhog burrows to see:
a. If they’re still alive.
b. If they're awake.
c. If they'll come out.
d. If the media will cover the event.
The result of all this attention is:
a. No groundhog comes out.
b. Groundhog out, but there’s no sun, so no shadow.
c. Groundhog comes out into bright sun and is blinded by glare, so it returns to its burrow.
d. Groundhog comes out, but it’s a rainy day, so it gets all wet and catches pneumonia.
e. The media doesn’t show up.
As an observer of all this once said: “Pity the poor groundhog. He’s stuck with a woodchuck’s body and an old wive’s tale.”
February 8, 1912 — A new dance step called the Turkey Trot was called, “Disgusting and indecent,” by a New York newspaper. I’ll bet they’d love today’s dance videos, eh?
February 9, 1950 — U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy charged that the State Department was infested with head lice? No. Actually, he claimed it was a communist infestation.
February 14, 1840 — The first North American Valentine card was published by an American woman named Esther Howland.
Farther back, it’s said that in 1415, Charles, the Duke of Orleans, secretly sent his wife one of the first Valentines from his jail cell in the Tower of London. And if we go way back in time, there’s the legend from AD 270 that suggests a priest named Valentine sent a note to a girl who was very kind to him and signed the note, “Your Valentine.”
Reminder to guys: Mark it on the calendar, “February 14 — card and flowers.”
February 14, 1985 — Here’s a warm and fuzzy Valentine’s Day story from the world of NHL hockey. The Red Wings and North Stars choose February 14 to lovingly mix it up on the ice with a brawl that even included both coaches. Minnesota coach Glen Sonmor crossed the ice and gave a Valentine greeting —of a sort — to Detroit’s Nick Polano. Another great moment in wrestling, uh, boxing, uh, hockey?
February 15, 1842 — Postage stamps with adhesive on the back were first used in New York City. Before that, they used a piece of chewing gum, rivets, nails, screws?
February 20, 1521 — Ponce de Leon set out for Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth. Unfortunately, there was a drought and the fountain wasn’t working.
February 26 — See if you remember this bit of hockey trivia. The most penalties in an NHL game? It happened in 1981, when Boston and Minnesota averaged a penalty every 43 seconds, resulting in 84 penalties for a total of 406 penalty minutes. Seven North Stars and five Bruins were ejected. What an inspiration to hockey kids everywhere.