Valley Journal
Valley Journal

LEAP into extra day

Ronan turns 104 years old on Monday. Or is the ranching community only 26? The town was incorporated on Feb. 29, in the leap year 1912.

Ronan shares its birthday with other “leap babies” in Western Montana, including Wendy Sanders, a paraprofessional at Pablo Elementary School, who turns “15” this year.

“The kids don’t quite grasp how I can look so old and be 13, 14, or 15,” Sanders said. “I’m one of the only people going through puberty and menopause at the same time.”

David Montague of Bonner will finally celebrate his 18th birthday on Monday.

“My wife (of 9.7 leap years) will be relieved since we will be able finally to go out in public without her risking arrest for endangering a child, or worse. She’s one of those oldsters, nearly 70, and is unnaturally attracted to my youthful freshness and beauty,” Montague wrote in an email.

The good-humored senior, born in 1944, has ambitious plans for his birthday.

“I hope to catch a gravitational wave, now that we know they exist, and take a timely cruise through the universe,” Montague said. “Then race home to pig out on the Nanaimo Bars she plans to make in place of a cake.”

Sweet treats are also on the agenda for Polson Mayor Heather Knutson. Although not born on a leap day, she does have plans to take advantage of the added day 2016 affords.

“I’m very excited that I get an extra day this year to spend time with my little almost 2-year-old,” Knutson said. “I think we might need to indulge ourselves on this bonus day with a trip to the Cove for some ice cream.”

On Monday Knutson will also be drawing the winner of February’s Polson Proud gift.

Linda Greenwood, a Polson resident involved with many nonprofit organizations, is spending her extra day far from winter’s chill in Patagonia — Arizona, that is.

“On the 29th, I will be at the little Patagonia R.V. Park, camping in my VW EuroVan ‘Cramper’ — as my husband used to call it,” Greenwood said. “I am writing a little book. So I will take off on my bike with my computer in my daypack and go to the library to work on it.”

For those looking for something unique to do on the freebie day, a person might choose to write a letter to one’s self and open it the following leap year. College students might set achievement goals for the next five leap years. Adventurers could hook up to a parachute and leap out of a plane and youngsters could play a game of leapfrog. February is also Heart Health Month, so this leap day gives folks an extra day to get their ticker checked. 

While February is considered the “month of love,” traditionally Feb. 29 is sometimes referred to as “Sadie Hawkins Day,” a day when a woman may propose marriage to a man. In Ireland and Britain, it’s traditional for women to propose marriage only in leap years. In Greece, marriage in a leap year is considered unlucky.

Or, folks might spend their day doing leap year math.

The earth takes about 365.242189 days – or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds – to circle once around the sun, yet the modern Gregorian calendar has only 365 days in a year. A day is added almost every four years on Feb. 29. If the day wasn’t added, almost six hours a year would be lost. After 100 years, the calendar would be off by about 24 days. 

The “almost every four years” means a leap year is added in years divisible by four — but not added for those divisible by 100 and not divisible by 400.

Confused? Blame Julius Caesar, who introduced leap years more than 2,000 years ago. Because his Julian calendar added a leap day in every year divided by four, it produced too many leap years, which was corrected 1,500 years later by the Gregorian calendar, according to timeanddate.com

Polson leap baby and educator Sue McCormick challenged students with “really fun math problems for the kids based on my ‘age,’ the number of ‘real’ birthdays I’d had and the number of years I’d been alive,” she said.

Born in 1948, this year she turns 17. Celebrating a birthday that only comes once every four years is an advantage as McCormick said she often celebrates for about a week around that “missing” day.

“I think Mom and Dad heard a lot of questions about my birthday and why it didn’t come every year. Even as a young child I knew being a leap baby somehow made me … different. But my mom did a wonderful job making sure I also knew being different was a gift, something I should be thankful for,” McCormick said.

McCormick’s great uncle Henry reinforced the special aspects of being a leap baby.

“There aren’t many babies born on this day,” he told McCormick. “And since God doesn’t make many leap year babies, He takes very special care of them.” 

 

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