Already the old-time prognosticators are telling us we're in for it this winter. That is, those who are reading the signs that indicate we're in for it, are telling us we're in for it. On the other hand, though, another group of sign readers are saying just the opposite. Guess that leaves the rest of us just hanging out there guessing as to when to don our long johns, and wondering just how long we'll have to wear 'em.
Anyway, over the years our readers have sent us dozens of ways the old folks use to predict the kind of winter we can expect. Quite naturally, the first thing that comes to mind are the wooly worm readers who start noticing the little critters at about this time of year, and swear by their findings. They say, for example, that it's 100 percent true that if a worm is brown in the middle, and lighter on each end, the season will begin and end on a mild note, but will be really bad in the middle. The wooly wormers have a little formula for all the stripes, and every combination means something different.
Other lesser known things old timers noticed, or at least they were lesser known to me, even includes the way the wind blows. On January 1, if it blows from the south, it will blow from the south every day in January. Guess southern winds mean milder weather.
Some folks even count the number of times it thunders in January, and believe that indicates how many frosts we'll have in April. Some believe that if it thunders in February, it will frost on that same day in May.
Other signs of nature pertaining to what we might expect this coming winter include a heavy frost as a sign of rain; a heavy frost hanging on the trees until late in the morning, means you'd better prepare for snow; and if your hog or mule stands looking toward the north, cold, weather's on the way.
And let's not forget the squirrel watchers who believe that if Mr. Squirrel wears a heavy coat, look out. Some local forecasters are also moon watchers, believing that the number of days old the moon is when it snows the first time, is the number of times it will snow that year. Mistletoe watchers tell us a heavy crop of mistletoe in the fall, indicates a cold winter is on the way. Same is true with an abundance of wild fruits. And, of course, all true eastern Kentuckians know that a severe winter is on the way if hornets build their nests low to the ground.
Those with fireplaces (except electric or gas, of course) might be interested in knowing that it's going to turn extremely cold if firelight is seen reflecting on the woodwork in the room, especially if the fire crackles with a fluffy sound, as if snow were falling on it.
And finally, if you see a yellow butterfly in the late fall, within ten days, there will be enough frost to turn the leaves the color of the butterfly.
Guess in those long-ago days before science was used in weather predicting, our ancestors figured it all out themselves. And, likely as not, did so with a great deal of accuracy.