Kyle Troutman: Folklore for the winter ahead

Saturday, November 6, 2021

It’s no question that winter is coming, evidenced by the chilly temperatures this week as November arrived.

While I prefer the spring and fall to the dog days of summer and the icy bite of winter, the seasons come and go no matter how I feel, and if the midwest folklore is any indication, this winter may be icier than normal.

We’ve been hit with a few snows in recent years. Last winter provided a one-two punch of ice for a week, then heavy snow for another, which was great for people who could work from home but dangerous for anyone who needed to travel or needing a break from being cooped up for a fortnight.

One of the most trusted indicators of the pending winter is the local persimmon growth. According to the folklore, when the persimmon seed is split, the shape of the seed predicts the season ahead.

A fork shape predicts a mild winter with light, fluffy snow; a knife indicates a cold winter with icy winds, which cut like the knife-shaped seed; and a spoon means a winter with heavy snow, like the shape of the shovels used to rid it from sidewalks and driveways.

Locally, Persimmon Hill Farm in Lampe announced its official unofficial prediction, sampling five of the fruits. The random selection gave a clear forecast — all spoons.

If the persimmon prediction is to be believed, it may be wise to get a head start stocking up on snow removal items, or if snow is more your toy, maybe a new saucer or sled to be prepared for the fun.

While I have only seen a photo of the Lampe farm’s persimmons, I did run across another winter weather predictor on my own this week.

On my porch on Monday night, there was a woolly bear caterpillar inching by our Jack-o-Lanterns. Folklore says the thinner the orange band on the woolly bear, the more snowy winter will be. If that is true, we’re in for it, because this bugger’s band was virtually non-existent.

I will, however, keep an eye on “Mesa,” as named by our first-grader. We brought the guy inside and will keep him for the season as he transitions into moth form.

The Farmer’s Almanac lists a number of other winter weather folklore, like the thickness of corn husks, woodpeckers sharing a tree, the early departure of ducks and geese, an early Monarch butterfly migration, thick hair on the nape of a cow’s neck, thick-tailed and bright-banded raccoons, mice trying extra hard to get in homes, bigger spider webs and more spiders inside, pigs gathering sticks, ants marching in a line, early seclusion of bees within the hive, an abundance of acorns and frequent halos or rings around the sun or moon.

As for these, maybe some local ranchers or beekeepers could shed more light?

I have not heard the geese over my house yet, nor have I seen any butterfly migrations.

I have had to handle a few more spiders inside than normal, an extra pain with the “fear” of the critters among members of my household. I have also had ants getting inside quite a bit, though they do more meandering than exploring in a line.

I’ll have to pay closer attention to the sun and moon as the weather clears. It’s been tough to see them in recent days with all the gloomy cloudiness and rain.

The long-range forecast by the Almanac predicts a lot of flurries, and snow as early as the end of November. I can pass on that.

However, from Dec. 22-26, it predicts flurries, and through the rest of the calendar year, snowy periods. I wouldn’t say no to a white Christmas this year, should Mother Nature oblige.

Overall, it predicts lower-than-normal temperatures and lower-than-normal precipitation until February.

Who’s to say if the persimmons are right or the almanac is right? As I have learned from experience, no amount of folklore is 100 percent accurate, but it’s definitely good for creating winter anxiety or disappointing anyone who wants the opposite of what actually happens.

I think this year I’d be happy with a snow or two, but only if Santa brings me a new sled to enjoy it — maybe Christmas will be just the time.

Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of the Cassville Democrat since 2014. In 2017, he was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers. He may be reached at 417-847-2610 or editor@cassville-democrat.com.

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