We all know the story. On February 2nd, people come from all over to gather and watch a diminutive critter crawl out into the sun. If he sees his shadow? Six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't, spring begins.
But we're not talking about a groundhog from a small town in Pennsylvania who can predict the changing of the seasons. We're talking about Bee Cave Bob, an armadillo from Katy, Texas who can predict the changing of the seasons. This is Armadillo Day.
The first Armadillo Day took place in 2012 outside of Austin in a town called Bee Cave, which our state legislature officially recognized in 2007 as the honorary location of our planet's geographical western pole.
Every year Bee Cave Bob makes the journey from Katy to fifth-generation Texan Terry Boothe's ranch in Bee Cave just off Highway 71. With the friendly encouragement of a handful of volunteers, Bob is coaxed out of Bee Cave while the Benevolent Knights of the Raccoon, the ragtag crew who started this tradition of which Boothe is a founding member, translate Bob's meanderings into actionable meteorological intelligence.
Just like his Pennsylvanian counterpart, Bob doesn't always get it right, but typical of Texas' sunny weather and warm springs, he usually trends toward optimism. Some might say it's an easy gig, but everyone else will tell you Bob treats his sacred duty with all the gravity that can be mustered by an armadillo.
It certainly makes sense that the Benevolent Knights of the Raccoon would choose an armadillo to make these predictions; armadillos are, after all, our state mammal since 1995.
Says member of the Knights Mike Burke: "the armadillo, being a prehistoric animal that has been here through thick and thin, Ice Age, floods, the whole stew, still abounds in the state of Texas, which kind of proves how tough our state is."
There's a toughness and resilience to these little armored varmints, dodging highway traffic moving at blazing Texas speeds. They've been here long before us and with any luck they'll be here long after us. It's high time we Texans finally gave them their moment in the sun.
Unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Bee Cave Bob will stay in Katy this year. The Benevolent Knights of the Raccoon have opted to cancel this year's festivities so as not to risk the health of the hundreds of Texans that usually attend.
“Right now, discretion is the better part of valor. I feel like it is the honorable thing to do,” said Boothe.
Even without Bob's prognostication to guide us this year, I'm hopeful that we get an early spring. Folks across the state are itching to get out and have some fun, and an early spring would allow them to participate in safe, COVID-friendly activities like going fishing or hunting out in East Texas, a hike in our state's beautiful Hill Country, or even a socially-distanced float down the old Guadalupe.
While this year's Armadillo Day is off the table, it'll just make next year's even sweeter. Of course, there's never any telling which way Bob will lean. But if nine years of Texas tradition is any indication, Bob will call it like he sees it.
Happy Armadillo Day, Texas! Call me an optimist like Bee Cave Bob: I predict we’ll see spring sooner than we think.
Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.