The Old Ways of Weather Predictin’

Published 9:26 am Sunday, January 22, 2017

Mountain Echoes

Let’s talk about the weather.
Now hold on a doggone moment, don’t go off and take a nap on me yet. We’re not actually talking about the weather outside today, last week or even last month. I thought it might be interesting in taking a look at ways the weather used to be predicted.
Back in the days before meteorologists stood in front of a green screen (with a computer generated model of the area showing) and talked Doppler radar, people of the communities had to look for signs to help forecast the days to come. Sometimes just a day or two notice is all was needed to know when to plant or harvest crops, or protect them from weather related harm. Anyone who got skilled in this, or just got plain lucky repeatedly, was seen as a sage and people would often consult with them before planning events.
Now some of these I remember my Papaw telling me about when I was little boy. I’m pretty sure you have similar recollections yourself if you study over it a bit. We’ll start with the first on the list and work our way down.
Some trees will turn the underside of their leaves up to the sky in anticipation of its thirst being quenched. Impossible to miss for the underside is a much lighter shade of green.
They say counting August fogs will predict how much snowfall is coming.
This one is a can’t miss, blackbirds feeding in mass gathering on the ground is a sure sign of bad weather coming in the next day or two.
Of course we’ve all heard the saying “Red Sky at night, sailors delight. Red Sky in morning, sailors warning.” Have you heard this one though? “Rainbow in the morning, heed the warning.” Now a rainbow in the western morning sky means a lot of moisture in the air and usually rain is coming from that direction. A rainbow in the eastern sky says rain is moving out and sunny days are ahead.
Here is one you can take to the bank. When the sun or the moon is encircled with a halo you can expect rain or snow in the next three days.
If you happen to have a science minded friend when it comes to weather foretelling, mention wooly worms and watch them get fired up. Traditionally, I’ve heard folks find one before winter and try to predict the whole winter. More modern folks who celebrate this little critter will tell you it’s only good for a few weeks and you have to rely on several of them over time.
Here’s one I didn’t know about. Pine cones will close up when humidity increases to protect its seeds from the soon to arrive downpour.
What about Persimmons? Supposedly if you cut one to the kernel and it’s shaped like a spoon, that means shovel. As in get ready to shovel some heavy wet snow that winter. If shaped like a fork, one would expect a light, mild winter.
One of my favorites to investigate is a practice that was still being used in the 1930’s in the county, maybe even longer. They were called “Goose Bone Prophets.” Geese were commonly raised by families in the county and most would say if the breast feathers became dull and darker that a poor winter was coming. The prophets would go further and upon slaughtering a goose, they would take the breastbone and boil it for several minutes and afterwards would measure the thickness of the bone as well as “read” the colors and patterns on the bone to predict how kind or harsh Old Man Winter’s return would be.
What tales have you heard growing up? Which ones do you swear by? Drop us a line and let me know!
Until next time, the mountains are calling.
Scott Bowers is Carter County historian and commander of Camp 2083 Lt. Robert J. Tipton of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Send questions or comments about his columns to

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