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Weather Cartoon That Speaks To Gregory (Your Blogger)

June 16, 2020

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From Feel That Breeze, a chapter in Walking Up The Ramp, by Gregory Humphrey

There were other folk legends as well that got attention around our dinner table. Others spoke of the timing of the first crash of thunder in the early spring, or the arrival of the first hard frost in fall. We were asked: “Did the acorns set on heavy this year, or did the leaves fall from the trees early? Did you hear the formation of geese flying over, and heading south already?”  We didn’t really need to know about the oak trees or the Canadian geese; we already had wooly caterpillars.

Another source of weather lore intrigued me as a kid. In fact, the Old Farmer’s Almanac still does. I am not making any claim that the Almanac has any more or less understanding of the ultimate outcome of the seasons than the caterpillar, but I will say it is a most novel publication. Who cannot warm to the nuggets such as “a fire hard to kindle means bad weather” or “black bears head to winter dens now”? The Almanac was correct more often than not, and my nose told me so. I would look at the charts and predictions in the fall and when it was reported “ragweed in bloom now”, I sneezed in agreement.

We always had a copy of the small-sized yellow-jacketed publication back home, and it was fun to read both the articles, and their ads which could best be described as quaint. Best of all were the weather predictions that dominated a section of each edition. Accurate by luck or not, the predictions were highlighted with small icons and graphics along with old folklore, and are always fun to read.

Over the years James’ Mom would send a copy our way late in the fall, and come January, I would be comparing the scene out my window to the printed predictions within its pages. I could always dial Marion up and talk about what was going on; she had already ‘pre-read’ the copy she had sent me, so she knew of what I was speaking first hand. There is still something about the old-fashioned look and tone of the publication that makes me aware everything need not be slick, or ‘new and improved’ to be important to our lives, or bring a smile.

One of my first memories of Marion is of her looking up at the Maine sky in the evening and reciting her own favorite weather predicting adage. “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning,” she’d state. Her face seemed to reflect a real sense of dread, as though she had been out to sea herself or had been home waiting for a loved one to return on his boat. “But red skies at night, sailor’s delight!” Her face lit up. Marion lived for those red skies of the evening over the coast of Maine; if she could have lived in a lighthouse, she would have, just to be able to see the sky painted pink more often.

Now that Marion is gone, I miss not getting my copy of the Farmer’s Almanac in the mail with her handwritten annotations. She was always pointing out the parts she thought I
needed to read first. She readily agreed with Mom’s wooly caterpillar method of predicting weather, and always added that if you counted how many stars were inside the ring of the moon as it began to snow, you could tell how many inches of snow would fall in the night. That was harder for me to verify here in the city than it would have been in the country, but I saw no reason why it wouldn’t be true. Even today, though more rare here in the Midwest than in Maine, I never fail to stop and admire a good deep red sunset and think of James’ Mom, who shared a love of weather predicting with me. “Red skies at night, sailor’s delight!” 

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