Monday, March 25, 2013

Robins And Woolly-worms

This morning I looked out of my kitchen window, and there, on the ground ~ on a small patch of wet grass, cleared so that the dog would have a place to 'do her business', while surrounded by the four inches of snow we got overnight ~ was a red breasted harbinger of spring. There, standing as proud as any proud thing could be, was a robin. Now, most people might not have taken notice of, nor understood the singular importance of, the sight. But I was one who listened to the old folks when they talked ~ and the old folks always said that when the first robin was seen, Spring was not far behind.

Before we had 'doppler weather' to mislead us about the weather (more often than not, if the 'doppler weather' tells you that it will be sunny tomorrow, you can bet it will rain most of the afternoon!), the old folks would look at, and listen to, insects, birds and the like to tell what the weather around the corner would be.

When the mourning dove could be heard making its 'who-woo-oo who who who' call, you knew that rain wasn't too far off. And when you saw the leaves of trees turning over to show you their undersides, you knew that the rain was pretty close. And speaking of rain, Uncle So-and-so's arm or Aunt So-and-so's leg would ache like 'all-get-out' when rain was coming.

But it wasn't only rain that could be foretold. When you would see hornets in the dreadful heat of the Summer building their nests up high, you could be sure that there was going to be some pretty high snows in the coming Winter. Contrary-wise, if the hornets built their nests low, then the snows would be light that Winter. And then there are the woolly-worms. In Pennsylvania, we call them woolly-worms, even though their proper names are "banded woolly bear caterpillars", or even more properly "Pyrrharctia isabella" (i.e. the Tiger Moth's larval stage). Whatever you call them, woolly-worms usually have black 'fur' on each end with orangish-brown 'fur' in the middle. The old folks used to say that if the black ends were so large that there was only a thin band of brown, it would be a harsh winter. Conversely, if the black ends were thin themselves, with the brown band covering most of the worm, a mild winter would be coming. Since I have always believed what the old folks said, I didn't need the fancy 'dopppler weather" to tell me that we'd see a lot of snow during this winter of 2012/13 because during last Autumn I came across five or six of the woolly-worms, and all of them were nearly completely black!

Many of the weather prognosticators, even though the old folks didn't know it, were based on logical, if not scientific, facts. You could see the undersides of a tree's leaves when rain was close by because a warm layer of air pushing underneath a cold layer ~ the friction of the positively charged and negatively charged ions, which would result in rain ~ was what pushed the leaves upward, turning them over. The old folks didn't know much of anything about warm air versus cold air, they just knew that when you saw the leaves turning upside-down it was going to rain soon.

So today, although I didn't know the scientific explanation of it, I knew that since I saw the first robin of Spring, it (Spring, that is) would not be far behind it (the robin, that is).

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