By Mark J. Tidwell
In the last From The Mountain, we talked about what the Winter of O-nine and Ten might have in store for us. For a quick recap, Mr. Archer of Newcomb had meticulously studied the fogs of August. We may have three significant snow events according to those observations. I stated there were other folks out there wanting to share some of their observations. So, without further ado, let’s see what they are saying.
First, we’ll stop off in Wooldridge and see what Bill Thomas has to say. Before we get into weather, I’ll always remember what Bill said to me one day. We were discussing snakes. Thomas is a Viet Nam Veteran who has jumped out of helicopters into the jungle and all kinds of dangerous stuff. He said: “Mark, there’re only four kinds of snakes in the whole world I’m scared of. Lit’luns, big’uns, live ones and dead ones!”
Thomas noted an extra heavy garden yield, an overabundance of stink bugs, coyotes coming close to the house to feed, hummingbirds feeding late into the evenings to fatten up for an early flight, and a coon and a possum feeding together. Thomas thinks all of this points to an early and bad winter. I shall play on Thomas’s words here: “There’s only four kinds of winter the Lit’l Tidwell Feller’ don’t like. “Harsh uns’, cold uns’, long ones and short ones!”
Now we’ll go to the depths of Capuchin Creek where civilization is sparse and nature abounds. A lady that lives there, who wishes to remain anonymous, has noted an “extremely high and active coyote population.” She says they have really been tanking up on the heavy persimmon crop in the area, a sign she takes as the yodel dogs putting on an extra few millimeters in their fat layer for an oncoming bad winter. I’d howl at night too if I was living out in the woods with snow up to my belly and with few rabbits and such around to quench my hunger.
On down in Elk Valley, farmer Lynn Lay has noticed an “unusually thick coat on his cattle in September.” So it seems the cattle are getting ready for some harsh weather in the coming months. As well, Lay says: “field corn has 20 tight shucks” this season as compared to only 17 shucks on last year’s crop. So too the corn seems to be battening down the hatches for what is coming in the near future.
Back in Highcliff, I’ve personally observed a summer population of grasshoppers that rivals those I used to see growing up. It had been years since I had seen so many hundreds of grasshoppers around the fields and meadows. My mailman brother Ray, who does substantial bush-hog-for-hire work, also noted huge numbers of grasshoppers wherever he worked his John Deere this summer and early fall.
What about Mt. Leconte in the Smokies? On October fourth, 3.5 inches of snow fell, with temperatures dipping to 23 degrees. That was the earliest recorded snow in 31 years in that locale. What about the astounding nut crop the woods is dropping currently, or the tremendous apple and fruit crops the summer produced. What does all that allude to?
Now to locales far removed from Campbell County for winter predictions. Banner Elk, NC just held its 33rdWooly Worm Festival. 23,000 folks attended! Lewisburg, PA and Beatyville, KY held similar events with untold thousands more flocking in to see what the wooly worms have to say about the Winter of O-nine and Ten. Some of the world’s wooly worm experts assembled in Banner Elk, who claim an 85% accuracy rating for their beloved critters, have interpreted this year’s worm crop as predicting the thirteen weeks of winter thusly (wooly worms have thirteen segments which supposedly correspond to the thirteen weeks of winter):
Week 1 flurries. Week 2 cold with flurries. Week 3 snow. Week 4 flurries. Weeks 5, 6, 7 cold. Week 8 light flurries. Weeks 9 and 10 below average cold. Week 11 snow. Weeks 12 and 13 flurries.
Keep in mind this is for the wooly worms of Banner Elk. The resident wooly worms of our area may be saying something totally different. At any rate, Old Man Winter is poised out there, waiting to embrace us shortly with his icicle draped arms and cold, snowy breath. It’s anyone’s guess as to what he has hidden up his sleeve