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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: This Saturday we should look to Spokane marmots for winter prognostication

Two yellow bellied Marmots peek out of a drainage hole in a wall along West Bridge Ave. and Monroe Street in this photo from 2014. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Two yellow bellied Marmots peek out of a drainage hole in a wall along West Bridge Ave. and Monroe Street in this photo from 2014. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

The end of this week brings an oddball occasion of some note.

Yes, Saturday is Groundhog Day. And as always, some in Spokane will find themselves wondering.

What if, for a change, we made a fuss over a marmot instead? At least here in the West.

Each Feb. 2, Spokane could be known as New Punxsutawney.

After that, well, it’s anybody’s guess.

Perhaps some hapless civic booster would attempt to hoist a bull marmot by the scruff of its neck and be horribly mauled.

Instead of relying on seeing its shadow to predict the length of winter, the meteorological marmot would analyze long-range National Weather Service data. Assuming that the government is not shut down.

KREM’s Tom Sherry would play the Bill Murray role in a movie remake, “Marmot Day.”

Citizens of Spokane would note the occasion by chewing on candy made to resemble engine hoses.

Children in marmot costumes would get to ride the Looff Carrousel free of charge.

Right place, wrong time

Sunday’s story about my former co-worker who went to the wrong house for a Super Bowl party reminded Spangle’s Lonnie Scott of an experience he had in Bremerton in 2005.

Lonnie, a chaplain then, was all set to perform a wedding at a Navy chapel. Just before the ceremony the bride’s brother arrived from the Midwest.

But the bride’s brother didn’t recognize anyone at the wedding. And when the bride came down the aisle and it was not his sister, he knew something was wrong.

There was. He had neglected to set his watch on Pacific time. He was at the wrong wedding.

But he stayed for the ceremony and met the just-hitched couple, who encouraged him to stick around for the reception and help them celebrate.

Eventually this man’s actual sister arrived before her own wedding. And Lonnie recalls her joking with her brother that he must have changed his ways because his whole life he had always been late for everything.

An answer for everything

Wayne Pomerleau saw my mention Sunday of something a cable TV service specialist said. (And my suggestion that it could be an all-purpose saying in Spokane.)

The line was “It’s a known issue.”

Wayne’s own nominee for something we could use here was a classic saying.

“And this, too, shall pass.”

I heard another possible multipurpose line the other day at the grocery store. The speaker was an employee trying to explain why the store was persistently out of a certain item.

“It could be a warehouse problem.”

I immediately imagined all sorts of uses for that line.

And suddenly there was music

I know I’m not the only person in Spokane who has an old car that seldom gets driven, especially in winter. But I want to keep the battery charged, so every now and then I go out to the garage and run the engine.

That’s what I did Sunday morning. And something unexpected happened. The car’s radio came on.

I heard music. It was chamber music, I think.

That radio hasn’t worked in years.

Anyway, it made me think of a question just right for a city that loves old cars.

If you had a vehicle with a long-dead radio that suddenly snapped back to life, what song would you want it to play when it first recovered its voice?

Speaking of hypotheticals

I was driving east on 29th when I saw a young woman in the next lane typing a message on her phone. Yes, she was behind the wheel while she was doing this.

It’s certainly not the first time I have seen this. And if I don’t keel over in the next few hours, I assume it won’t be the last.

As usual, the moment did not fill me with optimistic feelings about the future. But I wondered. If I had some sort of sign or written message I could hold up after honking to get her attention, what would I want it to say?

I came up with three choices. Feel free to add your own.

“Thoughts and prayers.”

“Thanks for making me hate your generation.”

“Use the brains God gave you!” (To quote Mr. Kirsch, father of four rambunctious boys who lived next door to us when I was in grade school.)

First memories of Spokane

Gail Griggs thinks she was about 3. Her father worked for the Great Northern Railway. “We lived in a little house on Euclid, west of Market Street. We had neighbors from Sweden or Norway and Italy. Mom learned to cook Italian spaghetti.”

Columnist Paul Turner can be reached by email at

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