No Foolin’! Punxsutawney Phyllis Visited Saskatchewan!

March 20, 2012

We’re taking a brief detour from Director’s Week because of the visit of a certain groundhog. As I mentioned when I reviewed Susanna Leonard Hill’s delightful picture book, April Fool, Phyllis! for Perfect Picture Book Friday a couple of weeks ago, Phyllis the Incredible RockStar Groundhog is currently on a World Tour. Not only is she cavorting all over the globe, spreading joy and weather reports wherever she goes, she seems to be able to be in three or more places at once! That’s one talented groundhog.

Phyllis and I spent a couple of days last week sightseeing in and around my home city in Saskatchewan, Canada. (Phyllis and I made a deal — I’d learn to spell Punxsutawney if she’d learn to spell Saskatchewan. It seemed a fairly even trade.) I have to tell you right now, it is great fun sightseeing with a groundhog, especially one as friendly and enthusiastic as Phyllis. She charmed everyone in her path (not that anyone who knows her will be surprised by that).

It seems appropriate that although our sightseeing took place last week, I’m posting this on the first official day of Spring! Want to know what we did? Click the magic words…

Our first stop was a grain farm. Saskatchewan is noted (among other things) for being an agricultural province. Phyllis pricked up her ears at the mention of grain, and spent much of the 20-minute drive asking “Are we there yet?” When we arrived, she said, “We have to show everybody how flat this place is! And how big the sky is!” (Although we do have hills and forests, even desert, in Saskatchewan, around here it’s very flat. The motto on our car license plates is “Land of Living Skies” — the prairie and the sky above it are vast.)

Phyllis and Beth in the "Land of Living Skies"

Phyllis soon wished she had rubber boots like mine — the prairie gumbo mud caked in her paws as she scampered around checking everything out. She climbed up on a piece of wood to clean her paws and to check the weather. She was so excited by everything that not long after this picture was taken she fell over backwards and had to be mopped off after landing in the wet grass.

Sniffing out the weather

It was cool and getting cloudy when we were out at the farm. Phyllis said it would be a while before all the snow melted. Her expert weather-sniffer told her that on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 1 p.m. it was 41˚ Fahrenheit, and the wind was SE 19 mph. It was breezy!

Phyllis was getting very eager to see what else the farm had to offer, and especially to see if there was any grain around that might make a good snack for a deserving groundhog. First we saw a tractor. A large tractor. They grow their implements BIG on this farm. Noting that it said John Deere on the side, Phyllis said she’d never seen a deer that big. Or that green!

This is an awfully big deer!

We saw a grain truck. A rather large grain truck. A semi-trailer grain truck. Phyllis was nearly overcome by the thought of so much grain. She scrambled up onto the front fender of the truck (we thought it best that she NOT check out the interior of the grain-hauling part of the truck…)

Phil Jr. and Pete are NOT going to believe this!

I thought Phyllis would fall over in ecstasy when she saw the size of the grain bins. She scurried around underneath, sniffing through the straw and chaff, checking for snacks. She eventually scampered back licking her lips, with straw dust on her whiskers, and mud on her paws.

"I didn't know there was this much grain in the whole WORLD!" Phyllis says.

Both of us appreciated so much my cousins welcoming us to their farm, and we want to thank Deb for being such a great photographer. Phyllis was only coaxed away from the wonders of the farm by promises of more fun the following day.

The next morning we went to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre — the RCMP have their training depot here, and every recruit takes basic training in my home city.

First we walked over to the Drill Hall for the Sergeant Major’s Parade. Four groups of recruits, in different uniforms indicating what stage of training they’d completed, marched in and were inspected by an impressive-looking Sergeant Major with waxed mustache. Phyllis tried not to giggle when one recruit had her hat readjusted. Then the band started to play, and the recruits and the band marched around and around the drill hall, while the Sergeant Major watched their formation and conformation carefully. Phyllis was marching in place on the seat beside me.

When we went into the Museum, Phyllis scrambled up onto the wooden barriers surrounding the life-size displays and got ready to have her picture taken. She knew Susanna had been eager to see horses — this is the closest we could get, Susanna.

The North West Mounted Police used horses and carts to travel across the prairies over a hundred years ago.
The kind of horse the Mounties ride for special occasions, and for the Musical Ride.

Phyllis got a chance to try on a Mountie hat — and discovered that it’s not easy to keep them straight the way they’re supposed to be.

The Sergeant Major had better not see how crooked Phyllis's hat is!

From the RCMP Depot, we went to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, where Phyllis learned all kinds of things about Saskatchewan wildlife and plants. First, though, she had to check the day’s weather. Can’t forget that!

This grass needs WATER!

For her second Saskatchewan weather report, Phyllis decided, “When in Canada, do as the Canadians do,” so her weather report is in metric (which she confesses twitches her whiskers just a bit.) A sharp sniff of the air, and a spin around on her rock, allowed her to determine that on Wednesday, March 14 at 2 p.m. the temperature was 7˚ Celsius, the wind was W at 31 kmh, the humidity was 45% and it was sunny.

Phyllis was quick to point out that although the snow is melting at a great rate here, we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that spring has come. She’s quite sure that there will be more snow — who knows, maybe even on April 1st!

We had a great time in the museum, scampering back and forth between the dioramas. (Well, Phyllis scampered. I walked in a manner befitting the human companion of a sightseeing groundhog.) She wanted her picture taken in front of nearly every display. (The woman in the information booth had told us this was fine, but I should make sure Phyllis didn’t actually climb into the displays. Phyllis was tempted a few times, but she showed admirable restraint.)

A burrowing owl and a burrowing Phyllis!
See what it says? MARMOTS! That's nearly as good as GROUNDHOGS!

And best of all…

PRAIRIE DOG!

I was tired when we got home, but apparently groundhogs don’t tire easily. Phyllis spent the rest of the day marching around the apartment, shouting orders to herself as if she was in the Sergeant Major’s Parade. She found it exceedingly frustrating that paws don’t make nearly as satisfactory a clomp-clomp-clomp sound as knee-high riding boots do. She did her best, though, especially with the knee-lift STOMP that the Mounties did every time they halted. She had a lot of fun with that. (I was just as glad she didn’t have boots on!)

I am delighted to have been part of Phyllis’s World Tour! Thank you, Susanna!

Illustration copyright Jeffrey Ebbeler; Badge design by Donna Farrell

44 People reacted on this

  1. OH MY GOODNESS!!!! Beth! You did so much fun stuff with Phyllis! How lucky she was to get to tour Saskatchewan with you! I am so jealous that she got to see the RCMP and I didn’t! So many fun things, such great descriptions of your time together, and such awesome weather reports – what a great idea to do one in celsius (although of course, being a dopey American, I really have no idea what that report means and I’ll have to go look it up so I know which day was warmer :)) Thank you so very much for hosting her and being part of the tour! I hope all her marching didn’t bother your neighbors too much πŸ™‚ Many thanks again!

    1. It was so much fun taking Phyllis around! You would not believe how much fun I had! Thank you so much for inviting me to join the tour. It was a delight from start to finish. Since she didn’t have boots, I think the neighbors were okay. I am glad, though, that the gift shop didn’t have boots! She was certainly nosing around in every corner, hoping for boots and a proper Mountie hat. (She wouldn’t have said no to a horse, either, I’m sure.)

          1. I’m glad you clarified. Isn’t autocorrect a pain? (But it does cause fun at times…)

            Punxsutawney Phyllis — Have Horse, Will Travel. πŸ˜‰

  2. What I wouldn’t give to be Phyllis. She’s the groundhog with travel expertise flowing from her groundhog fur. Looks like her trip with you was ever so delightful. And that Mountie’s hat, I do hope she didn’t sneak away with it, though she looked dashing with it on, crooked or not πŸ™‚

    1. She was having such a good time here — as was I! I managed to put the Mountie Hat way back up on the top of the locker where she couldn’t reach it. It did suit her, didn’t it? (In the museum there are bright red lockers with red serge jackets and hats for kids to dress up in and have their photos taken.)

  3. Great post!
    I think going to see RCMP is REALLY cool! Ms. Stilborn, what do you think was Phyllis’ favorite part of the cool trip? What was your’s? Saskatchewan seems like a cool place (as in cold place but also as in awesome place πŸ˜‰ )!
    Erik

    1. Thanks, Erik! I think that Phyllis’ favorite was the same as mine — watching the recruits marching around in the Drill Hall. The band’s music was great — at one point the bugler played the theme song from The Muppet Show! And the marching really made a person (or a groundhog) want to march too. When they turn, or when they halt, they lift their right foot high, so their leg is at a 90% angle with their body (knee bent) then STOMP their foot down. Some of them stomped so hard I’d think it would hurt! Phyllis loved that stomping.

  4. I can see that that Saskatchewan will leave lasting memories for Phyllis. glad she got to meet a Prairie Dog too.

    I love the photo of you both under ‘the land of the living skies’! Love the wells and I can so see Phil Jr and pete being jealous of the John Deer and semi-trailer grain truck.

    What a blast you both had!

    1. It was incredible fun! I’m eager to learn about her visit with you, as well! (Aren’t my wellies great? I’ve never had patterned ones before.)

  5. Beth, this is a hoot! Wow, you really took your hosting duties seriously. Love the vast skies and prairie, and that Phyllis was so excited by the grain that she fell over in the snow. She’s so silly!

    Very funny – thanks for the giggles this morning!

    1. Hosting Phyllis was so much fun — you wouldn’t believe how much fun I had! Glad you had some serious giggles today!

  6. Beth, what a very clever and clever tour of Saskatchewan for Phyllis. Susanna, there is a future story in there. I found myself laughing — mud in her paws, falling over backward when she saw the grain bins — all that food! Very funny! Great tour for Phyllis.

    1. I was telling a friend all the places Phyllis is going on this world tour, and my friend thought Susanna would have material for a whole series of stories!

      I’m glad Phyllis and I made you laugh. We had such a good time together.

    1. Although she apparently flew a stealth aircraft while in California, we decided it would be safest if she didn’t try driving any of the vehicles — she really wanted to try out the grain truck, especially, and the tractor would have been cool. Those tires are HUGE!

  7. Beth – I was hooked as soon as I read this line: “Phyllis and I made a deal β€” I’d learn to spell Punxsutawney if she’d learn to spell Saskatchewan. It seemed a fairly even trade.”

    So funny! Thanks for the great tour!

  8. Saw this on my facebook page. You really travel fast. lol
    My sister Mieke used to live in Saskatchewan but at Moose Jaw but now lives in Grande Prairie Alberta. No, I don’t see her much, because I live in No.Virginia. Am looking forward to hosting Phyliss later this spring and showing her a good time, here. Don’t know if I can produce all those giggles though.
    Your post is great. Thanks for sharing. lol

    1. I go to Moose Jaw occasionally — it’s about a 45 minute drive from here. And a cousin’s daughter used to live in Grande Prairie, so I’m familiar with where it is. Small world, isn’t it?

      Phyllis is good at producing giggles — I hope you’ll have as much fun with her as I did!

      Thanks, Clar!

  9. What a fun posting. I would have loved this journey (I like grains) but following it with you is almost as good. Thanks for the kind remarks on my blog. Onward and upward for kids and words!

    1. Thanks, Claudia! And thank you so much for visiting my blog. I hope you’ll take a look at last week’s posts about kids’ theatre!

  10. Yikes! I’m late. But what fun you had with our gal Phyllis! Love the hat! And the description is super fantastic. I can tell Phyllis laughed and laughed and so did you. (Did folks wonder why you were taking a photo of a book wearing a hat?) HA! (((Hugs))) Fun!

    1. Thanks, Robyn — glad you popped in! We had SUCH a good time. And amazingly, during the time we were in the Museum, there were very few others around (very odd, that!) and so no one witnessed the Book in the Hat episode!

  11. Hi Beth,

    Love your creativity. You will make a great published author.
    I enjoyed learning about where you live.
    I don’t know how I am going to be able to show Phyllis a fun, exciting time after all her wonderful visits. You folks have set the bar high. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks, Darshana! I’m sure you’ll have a great time with Phyllis. It’s hard not to! Your girls can teach her to hula-hoop!

  12. Beth,
    This was wonderful! You showed Phyllis the best time. She will want to visit you again πŸ™‚ I loved the part about Phyllis being in the Sergeant Major’s Parade…so funny!

  13. Awesome Beth! I have to say, although it was hard to narrow it down,the spelling contest was my favorite part. I too had to learn to spell Punxsutawney! Sheesh! I am not even going to pretend to know now to spell Seskatchewan. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth! Glad you liked our spelling contest. And hey, you’re SO close with your spelling of S – A – skatchewan. Just get an A in there instead of an E, and you’re spot on! Punxsutawney is a tricky one. Even when I’m spelling it correctly, my blog says I’m spelling it wrong. Shows how much spell-check knows. I spell it the way Phyllis taught me, and if she doesn’t know, who does?

  14. I’m catching up on my Phyllis posts tonight and you had me laughing right out loud tonight, Beth! I had a wild image of you scampering around with Phyllis before you clarified that statement. Your photo of the Land of the Living Skies reminded me so much of Montana. Beautiful.

    1. I’m glad you had fun with this, Heather! I haven’t “scampered” for a few years, except in my imagination!

      Saskatchewan is very much like Montana — we’re directly north. The sky is incredible here, and there.

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