You know it’s going to be a hard winter

The good ol’ boys at the coffee shop, stressed-out ranchers gloomily palaverin’ about the weather while leaning on the backend of a pickup and anxious business townsfolk pondering the pessimistic prospect of nobody buying their merchandise are all guessing what winter will be like.

Professional diviners of atmospheric conditions claim we’re in for another mild, moistureless winter. Maybe yes, maybe no. Prognostications for predicting winter weather are more numerous than quills on a porcupine, fleas on a dog or promises uttered by a politician.

You know it’s going to be a hard winter:

• When onions have more layers of skin than usual. What, I wonder, is “usual” for onion skins?

“Professional diviners of atmospheric conditions claim we’re in for another mild, moistureless winter. Maybe yes, maybe no.”

• When you butcher a beef and discover extra fat on the spleen. How much fat is “extra?”

• When deer are fatter than customary for this time of year. What is customary fat in the average deer?

• When black birds flock earlier and oftener Kinda like early voting in an election year.

• When woolly caterpillars shed their wool. Where do you find shed-off caterpillar wool? Can you spin the stuff into yarn and weave rugs from it?

• When wasps build their nests higher than normal. Has anyone measured the “normal” height of a wasp nest?

• When you saw up three times more wood for the heater stove than you did the previous year.

• When, back in July, ants built more ant-hills than usual. Who counts ant hills?

• When horses and cows grow winter hair early. Mark your calendar.

• When centipedes trip while tap dancing. They should take up soft-shoe shuffling.

• When spiders and mice invade your house. Keep a broom handy in every room.

• When Tomcats come home earlier than usual. And they’re not even your cats.

• When potatoes grow deeper in the garden. They’re trying to avoid being baked.

• When ranchers switch summertime feedstore caps to caps with earflaps before the first of January.

• When politicians claim the lack of — or the surplus of — precipitation is the other party’s fault.

• When weather oracles reassure us that El Nino and La Nina ocean currents have gone back to normal.

• When needing material for this column, I sink to writing silly slogans about the weather.

According to this year’s Old Farmer’s Almanac, autumn temperatures will be near or above normal in most places. Winter temperatures will be above normal, precipitation and snowfall will be below normal in most areas.

Watching for signs that reveal future meteorological conditions is anybody’s game. Sometimes it’s entertaining. Nobody really knows, so go ahead: Have a shot at making up your own weather-foretelling slogan.

Today, it’s raining here and we’re grateful for the moisture. ❖