We Don't Care About Punxsutawney Phil, Wyoming Relies On Lander Lil

Lander Lil, Wyoming’s most famous prairie dog and the only rodent we don't shoot at, did not see her shadow at sunrise on Groundhog Day, which means that in some hallucination of a legend, winter is over. 

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Clair McFarland

February 02, 20242 min read

Cowboy State Daily reporter Clair McFarland and columnist Bill Sniffin with Lander Lil early Friday morning to witness of Wyoming's most famous prairie dog would see her shadow. She didn't.
Cowboy State Daily reporter Clair McFarland and columnist Bill Sniffin with Lander Lil early Friday morning to witness of Wyoming's most famous prairie dog would see her shadow. She didn't. (Knox McFarland for Cowboy State Daily)

Wyoming’s Groundhog Day celebrity Lander Lil — a prairie dog — did not see her shadow Friday, which means that in some fantasy realm in an alternate universe, winter is over in the Cowboy State.

But here in reality, Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day said winter is not only here until April, it’s planning to wallop our empty brown square of a state with cold and snow over the next few weeks.

“We should move Prairie Dog Day to about March 2nd,” said Day, changing the title of the Feb. 2 holiday to avoid hurting Lander Lil’s feelings. Day noted that Punxsutawney Phil, the rodent of national Groundhog-Day fame, burrows in Pennsylvania where winter can croak early.

Colorado-Shaped Cloud Ruins Everything

Now, a prairie dog is similar to a groundhog, but prairie dogs chew Copenhagen.

Lander Lil lives out in front of the post office in Lander, Wyoming, a frosty valley that smells like real estate money.

But Lil is actually a Peter Dinklage-sized bronze statue of a prairie dog, sculpted in 1984 by Bev Paddleford as a tribute to a real prairie dog mayor who used to peep up from her varmint boom town before the post office was built there.

And as a statue, Lander Lil is the only prairie dog in the state (relatively) safe from getting shot at.

“Where we’re standing was a prairie dog town,” said longtime Wyoming newsman and Cowboy State Daily columnist Bill Sniffin moments before sunrise Friday in front of a fearless crowd of zero spectators who came out to witness the useless weather harbinger. “And that was why they picked a prairie dog to be Lander Lil.”

But at sunrise exactly, two spectators did emerge from their burrows: Lander residents George Case and his mother Shirley.

The sun tried to shine on central Wyoming, but an ominous, Colorado-shaped cloud stymied it and diffused what would have been Lander Lil’s shadow.

That was when the Cowboy State Daily crew and its 13-year-old videographer decided to trudge back through the snow and seek out a warm breakfast of Copenhagen and prairie dog to kick off the rest of this Wyoming winter.

Watch on YouTube
Lander Lil didn't see her shadow Friday, Feb. 2, 2024.
Lander Lil didn't see her shadow Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. (Knox McFarland for Cowboy State Daily)

Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter