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Pawnee predicts prolonged winter on Bertram’s Donkey Day

2024 Donkey Day in Bertram

The weather-divining donkey Pawnee chose sweet feed (prolonged winter) over oats (early spring) on Feb. 2 during Bertram's version of Groundhog Day. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

A few more weeks of winter might be in store for the Highland Lakes, according to Pawnee the donkey. Bertram’s four-legged forecaster picked sweet feed (more cold) over oats (early spring) on Donkey Day, the small town’s answer to Groundhog Day. 

The annual event took place Friday, Feb. 2, at Bertram Elementary School in front of 400 cheering students.

“We don’t have a groundhog, but we do have Pawnee,” Bertram Chamber of Commerce President Lori Ringstaff told DailyTrib.com.

The 20-year-old “burrometer” has been predicting the seasonal transition for the past 15 years thanks to owners Patsy and Skip Oertli. Patsy said the tradition was started by the late Marcie Masterson, a lifelong Bertram community supporter, longtime chamber president, and writer for the city’s now-defunct newspaper, The Bertram Enterprise.

“We do this because it’s a Bertram tradition, and it’s fun for the kids,” said Bertram Elementary Principal Christine Hoffman. “It’s just a way to bring everyone together. We have an amazing community here in Bertram, and they really support us.”

Hoffman is in her first year as principal, and this was her first Donkey Day. She participated in the tradition to the fullest, giving Pawnee a customary kiss after his prediction. 

She noted the donkey has been correct around 70 percent of the time during his long weather career.

February 2024 forecast in the U.S.
A current chart from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows projected warmer-than-average temperatures in Central Texas over the next two weeks. This forecast conflicts with Pawnee’s prediction of a prolonged winter. NOAA image

However, Pawnee’s 2024 prediction is contrary to that of a slightly more famous groundhog up north, which did not see his shadow, meaning winter is coming to a close.

And human meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are projecting warmer-than-average temperatures and wet weather in Central Texas for the next two weeks, hinting at an early budding spring.

dakota@thepicayune.com