of the Weather
Bad weather is on its way -- ferocious storms of rain and maybe snow. I
see it clearly in the night sky: that ring around the moon -- a sure
The brighter the stars, of course, the better the weather, but when a
cat begins to wash its face a storm is coming fast. And when smoke
drops in a chimney, rain soon follows.
there was a Weather Channel or weather reports on the radio or
even a National Weather Service, folks in the country relied on the
sights and sounds around them for weather forecasting. They noticed the
color of the sky, the direction of the wind, the shapes and movements
of clouds and their combined influence on the next day's weather. They
also noted how often animal or plant behavior corresponds to the
Cows always come home before a storm, for instance. And if you see them
playing in the pasture, it's a sure sign of rain.
According to some folks in the Ozarks of Missouri, the shape
of the tiny seedling inside a persimmon can predict the severity of the
coming winter. A spoon shape on the seed indicates above average
snowfall, a knife shape signals colder than normal temperatures and a
fork shape means warmer than average temperatures.
"Those people back then were close observers," says folklorist Hubert
Davis. "They didn't have televisions and newspapers to tell them the
weather. Instead, they watched the animals and plants and remembered
what they learned with weather superstitions."
Davis collected and wrote about weather folklore for a quarter century.
In 1970 he discovered 3,600 pages of folklore material gathered by ten
Work Projects Administration writers gathering dust in a University of
Virginia library. In those pages he read stories that took him back to
happen to be a mountaineer from southwest Virginia," Davis said.
"Those people all believed in these weather superstitions and I heard
them repeated over and over."
There's this supersition about pigs, for instance:
"When pigs carry sticks the clouds will play tricks; but when they're
in the mud there's no fear of flood. When hogs squeal, romp and play,
expect snow by end of day."
And there's these sayings about roosters:
"When the cock crows at the break of day, everybody knows good weather
on the way.”
"If the cock crows on going to bed, he's sure to rise with a wet head."
Many of the supersitions have some scientific basis to them, Davis
maintains. Animals respond to changes in atmospheric pressure and
humidity which we tend to ignore.
"It's like a lot of the old medical treatments that used herbs and
things. We've come to find out that many of those herbs have the same
ingredients as aspirin and other drugs," he explains.
Davis' booklets, titled “What
Will the Weather Be?,
contain dozens of intriguing superstitions. I find myself convinced the
coming winter, hereabouts at least, will be a mild one. It's the
spiders and corn, you see.
"Lots of spiders in the fall mean a long, tough winter." The number
I've seen indoors so far I can count on one hand.
"When the corn husks are thick 'tis very clear, the winter will be long
and the weather severe." Ours were particularly thin.
The weather on Veteran's Day, though, is the real test. "When November
eleventh is very cold a short mild winter is foretold.”