CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)


HED:March came in like a lion and is going out like a lamb

By Phyllis Harper

Daily Journal

March should be going out like a lamb, after all, it came close to setting a record for coming in like a lion.

The old adage says "in like a lion, out like a lamb" and vice versa. Most of us enjoy mild spring storms that renew the earth, but not this year, the first days of March brought tornadoes and damaging winds.

Another weather adage says that if February borrows from March, April will pay it back; if this holds true, we'll still have some chilly weather. Susan McDonald always says, "Thunder in January, frost in April; thunder in February, overcoats in May."

And even if we don't need overcoats in May this deep into the Southland, there are apt to be a few days during Blackberry Winter when we need sweaters. Blackberry Winter arrives around the second Sunday in May, Mother's day, and I've seldom known it to fail. Blackberries are blooming at the time, hence the name.

Old-timers used to say that when the dogwood was white, the cotton crop would be the same, that it would be a good crop year. They were referring to an unusually heavy dogwood bloom, and there are similar sayings about some other blooms. In a good season, on good crop follows another.

But that doesn't work when the weather gets too wet, or especially too dry, and folk weather watchers explain, "In time of drought, all signs fail."

Jim Patterson reminded me that the persimmonometer he created last fall accurately foretold a mild winter. We had a few cold spells, but not the long hard freezes we needed. After several mild winters, the insect population is out of control, to say nothing of snakes and their ilk.

Jim and Martha Jo live near Boguegaba Bottom, and he said the bugs and snakes were fearsome last fall, so bad he was afraid to go looking for persimmon seeds until he was sure the snakes had bedded down for winter.

Almost all the persimmon seeds he found showed an imprint of a spoon when they were split. A spoon augers a mild winter, a fork foretells a hard winter, a knife a real doozy. Anyway Jim invented the persimmonometer, a bunch of split persimmon seeds glued to a cardboard, and mailed it to me; said he didn't trust his own eyes looking at all those spoon shapes.

I placed the thing in a prominent place on the wall, where in addition to being a weather reminder, it's a surefire conversation starter. Jim probably ought to get a persimmonometer patent.

Some say the first thunder in February awakens the snakes, in which case, it'll be a spell before Boguegaba Bottom is safe again.

If one extreme follows another, we may have a string of bad winters. American Indians used to say that winter weather came in cycles, that every seventh winter was a bad one, that every three-time-seven winter was the worst of all.

Save for heavy blooms, it's too early to observe winter-weather auguries, but we can watch for rain.

One folk claim says if it rains on Easter, it will rain for the next seven Sundays.

When wood doves - we called them rain crows at Fawn Grove - coo longer and louder than usual, they're predicting rain.

When birds feed in the rain, the rain will last at least a day; if it is a passing shower, they will wait and feed later.

A rooster crowing in the evening means rain is on the way; he feels the change in barometric pressure.

Cows lie down in the pasture when a storm front approaches.

"When a cow tries to scratch her ear,/It means a shower is very near;/When she thumps her ribs with an angry tail,/Look out for thunder and wind and hail."

In addition to discomfort from a lowering barometer, cattle are irritated by excessive insect bites before a storm.

Phyllis Harper is Daily Journal feature editor.

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