Is it just me, or was this January about the longest in the history of western civilization?

With its five Thursdays (which means five Houston Heralds) and weather that has done some see-sawing but has obviously been on the dang-cold side more often than not, this month has seemed to drag on and on. With about seven weeks still to go, this winter has already been the coldest I’ve experienced in my life – by far. That’s in large part thanks to January, and I suppose the relentless cold has a lot to do with the month seeming so long.

I really never thought I’d see a thermometer display a temperature below zero as many times as the one on the well house at our remote Texas County high country outpost has this season (for the record, the lowest temperature I ever saw in Georgia was zero, and the lowest I ever saw in Seattle was seven). I’d say it has done so about a dozen times since the whole cold thing began, and if it’s not below the line at 6:50 a.m., it’s often very near it or right on it, like on Tuesday morning this week when it was at exactly zero.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

Now that February is on the radar, it’s hard not to hope for a run of more “seasonable” temperatures (like in the low 40s). But let’s face it, we’re talking about February – basically the meat of winter – so more cold could be on the menu (probably sooner than later).

Of course, the Farmer’s Almanac and persimmon seeds predicted a cold, snowy winter, and if I’m not mistaken, that included a harsh February. Nevertheless, the U.S. media and plenty of easily-amused Americans will turn Sunday to another source of weather information, as Punxsutawney Phil – the infamous prognosticating woodchuck of the small town in eastern Pennsylvania – once again grabs headlines on Ground Hog Day.

Personally, I’ve never been a big Phil fan. And history shows that his record is only about .500 (with as many misses as hits), so flipping a Susan B. Anthony dollar would be about as accurate. So would simply guessing, which is all a ground hog could do, if it could, which of course it can’t.

Phil’s gig and the Super Bowl being on the same day notwithstanding, perhaps there’s good news about where the rest of winter is headed in south-central Missouri. At least, there is if there’s any merit in something my wife Wendy pointed out the other day.

She said that as our semi-celebrity Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Jamie, was hanging out in the house, she looked down at him and noticed a bunch of loose fur on his 35-pound frame. After brushing about a Walmart bag full of hair off of him, she sent me an email that said he wouldn’t be shedding if more frigid weather was in the offing, so spring must be just around the corner.

Hmmm, I thought. An interesting situation.

Why, indeed, would the Big Lug be loosing layers if he was going to need them in the near future? To be sure, Jamie is always somewhat of a canine hair storm, but to a lesser extent during the colder months, so the fact he has become the Shed-meister a bit early this year could be meaningful. Maybe he knows something the persimmons don’t and actually can “shed” light on the subject.

Whatever the case, Jamie naturally scoffs at the notion of gleaning climatic information from P. Phil.

“Why listen to an overgrown rodent?” he said. “I’ve got your answer right here in this Walmart bag.”

“So I guess monitoring Corgi fur is a much more reliable and accurate way of forecasting weather than the opinion of a woodchuck and the random casting of a shadow,” I said.

“What worthwhile meteorological knowledge could that four-legged butterball possibly have to offer?” Jamie said.

“As opposed to a pudgy Pembroke,” I said, “which is surely a much better source of weather wisdom.”

“I’m just sayin’,” Jamie said.

The annual break in the weather can’t come too soon.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email:

Punxsutawney Phil: "Overgrown rodent," "four-legged butterball."

Punxsutawney Phil: “Overgrown rodent,” “four-legged butterball.”

Jamie: "Pudgy Pembroke," "shed-meister."

Jamie: “Pudgy Pembroke,” “shed-meister.”