It is a dire and dirty job but somebody has to do it. Every night for the last week thunder rumbled while lightning forks split the sky and sundered the earth. Every night during the sky show, while rain pelted the town, I paced the floor, single-handedly keeping town and my part of the world safe from fires and mayhem. The responsibility weighs heavily on my sleepy shoulders. I decided to come out of the closet and confess to my prescient gift. I’m a weather witch.
Really. Sure, my joints ache when it rains or snows or the wind blows. That’s normal. I can open the NOAA National Weather Service site and scan the radar. That’s easy. I can stand outside, sniff the wind, feel the raindrops on my skin and tell you it looks like a shower coming. That’s obvious.
No, I’m talking knowing ahead a year or more. I’m not sure when I first noticed I had the gift. It seems it was always there. One desperately dry year I remember leaning on a shovel with my dad out in the field irrigating sugar beets and watching him scan the sky for clouds. Clouds formed on the horizon, floated to the center of the sky, split up and scurried around us. Not that it mattered which direction they went. Those clouds carried nary a drop of moisture. Nobody lost crops to hail that year. I could have told him it was futile to wish.
Worse than the prediction gift, I can call down rain. The first time I recall consciously calling rain was many years ago while visiting friends in Oregon. The man of the family remarked that his newly planted blueberries had to have rain or they would die. We were eating dinner. I looked up at the bare blue sky and said, “OK.” A half hour later rain began to fall. All afternoon it rained. It rained only on the eastern 10 acres of his little farm, the acres planted with blueberries. True story.
One day this summer I didn’t want to set up the hose to water my lawn and flowers. I was busy with other stuff. Without much thinking it through I called down rain. I know that sounds trite. I apologize. I only meant it for that one day.
And I refuse to take responsibility for every daily rainfall. Not all of them. Only that once did I lift my face to the empty sky and call in the clouds. The other times might have been sort of like splash-over. Generally, I don’t mess with Mother Nature. Always she sends along unseen consequences.
Farmers tell me this year the windrows of hay roll up so high they choke the balers. The wheat fields ripening in the daily sunshine promise plump kernels big as berries to overflow the bins. Cattle in the field fatten to a fine fettle on the lush grasses. Town-folk mow their lawns twice weekly. Mosquito colonies flourish in every puddle, threatening to carry off puppies, cats and small children.
My pay-back from Ma Nature comes every night. She shakes me awake with the first far-off rumble of thunder, stumbles me out of bed to pace from window to window and keep watch over my town. Night after night.
When I gaze into my crystal ball, clouded by fog and murky with condensation, it shows winter blasting across the eastern plains come October. Yep, October, folks. Already I feel winter’s cold breath lurking around the corner. Despite the fact that the hills, which should be brown, are still green with grass, the grass heads golden ripe, the first of August feels like September.
Our summer rains soon will freeze to snow. Winds not gentle will force snow into every crevasse and coulee, will bury grasses beneath heavy crusty blankets of drifts.
This will be a winter people talk about forever. So hold back some of that good hay, tempting as it is to sell every bale at the current top prices. Our cattle need to eat too.
Winterize your rigs early. Dust off those snow tires. Get in extra supplies of wood and bread flour. This might be the year to order those new mukluks you’ve been eyeing. Lay in some candles and jigsaw puzzles. Winter will be a doozy.
We will make it through. We always do. Spring will follow. Some enterprising soul will sell shirts which proclaim “I survived the winter of ’13-’14.” We’ll all buy one and put it on the shelf with the rest of the clothing we seldom wear.
Winter will come soon. I don’t cause it, and I can’t control it. I just predict it.
Don’t look behind the curtain. Don’t look behind the curtain. Keep away from that curtain.
Me, I’m heading south with Toto.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High School in 1963 and left for good. She finds, upon her return, that things are a little diffeent. Keep in touch with her at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)