Old-timers have a knack for knowing the weather

Old timers nearly always had a knack for determining what weather was coming. Before radio and TV, their observations might be their only warning about an impending weather event. 

Long before meteorologists reported the weather, people made forecasts based on their observations of the sky, animals, and nature. And these old-time weather predictions often were right. Just how did they develop these skills? Much of it was being a part of nature and observant of conditions. Probably, there was a mix of legends handed down through the years, or old wives tales and some science and practical knowledge. Probably not accurate all the time, but that was the best they could do. 

My Granddad, Papa Hop, was partial to, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.” He would explain, A reddish sunset means that the air is dusty and dry. Since weather in North American latitudes usually moves from west to east, a red sky at sunset means dry weather and good for sailing. But a reddish sunrise means that dry air from the west has already passed over us on its way east, clearing the way for a storm to move in. 

Did you know that’s from the Bible? In Matthew 16:2-3, Jesus said, “When it is evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowering. You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” 

Then there is “Rainbow in the morning gives you fair warning”  indicates that a shower is in your near future. “Ring around the moon? Rain real soon.” This ring is indication of a coming warm front and is caused by ice crystals reflected by the moon’s radiated light which causes a halo effect around the moon. Cloud formations and their shapes often predict coming weather. When you see small puffy clouds, these are called cumulus clouds and if they have rounded tops, but flat bases and they grow higher than the cloud’s width, then there’s a chance of a thunderstorm forming. And we have all heard that when animals grow thicker hair, we are in for a colder winter. However, some make your head shake. 

Like the one about caterpillars. The darker the woolly caterpillar or its brown stripe, the harsher the weather. Who knows how dark a caterpillar is supposed to be? And we all know folks like old lady McGillicutty, who claims that her bunions let her know when a weather change is coming. I have heard a lot of folks make a weather prediction according to their bunion and joint pain. And there are many, many more. I have heard about rainmakers “seeding the clouds” to make it rain. I think many folks got the wool pulled over their eyes with these maneuvers. 

However, I found that when the Civil War had ended, a civil engineer, Edward Powers, made the observation that rainstorms often occurred where major battles between Union and Confederate troops were fought. He concluded that the immense smoke, dust, and other particulate matter put into the air during conflict seemed to invigorate clouds to rain more. In 1891, patent attorney Robert Dyrenforth received a $2,000.00 grant from the U.S. Congress to experiment in a series of rainmaking trials near Midland, Texas. 

In the early1900s the founder of Post Cereal Company, C.W. Post, experimented with dynamite explosives just below the Caprock near Post, Texas. These results were nonconclusive. During the terrible drought of the 1950’s, several rainmaking trials were performed, with cloud seeding being predominant. Often, dry ice was the material used, and later silver oxide. I expect these cloud seeders hoped for days when conditions for rain was favorable! Often people gather to pray for rain, having faith that God is the creator of rain. When these gatherings occur, be sure to bring your umbrella!


 My Ol’ Daddy said, “we sure did need a rain.”

‘Cuz the catfish were floppin’ dust

An’ he allowed that the rails used for the train,

Were warpin’ for lack of rust.

Now, my Ol’ Daddy most always had a sayin,’

For all occasions at hand,

Like the reason dry weather was stayin,’

An’ why drought was over the land.


He’d up an’ say that ol’ dog is sheddin’ his hair,

‘Cuz dry weather was getting’ him down,

An’ how you could hear nary raincrow out there,

‘Cuz their beak was shriveled to a frown.


An’ he’d said he’d seen a dog chasin’ a cat,

By just sittin’ in the shade,

While they eyed one another like a diplomat,

Content with this docile parade.


Dadgumit, we’re gettin’ powdered milk from the cows,

The chickens laid hard boiled eggs,

The pigs are wallerin’ in dry mudholes he allows,

An’ centipedes ain’t got legs!


An’ widow McGillicutty’s bunions ache,

Tellin her weather will soon change,

Maybe rain and a cool off for goodness sake,

Weather predictin’ can be strange.


If you sat there an’ listened, he’d keep on a goin,’

‘Cuz he’d shore ‘nuff never quit,

But if you paid attention, you’d come away knowin,’

This old gent ain’t counterfeit.

“Cuz he paid attention to all of the signs,

An’ he knew just what they meant,

Red sky of a mornin’ an’ all that God divines,

About when rain would be sent.


You see, if he said that we would soon see rain,

Your slicker you would need to find,

“Cuz he had talked to the Lord again an’ again,

Rain was coming, he opined.

Ol’ Jim Cathey


Pray for rain! Join us at First Baptist Marlin at 11 a.m. Sunday morning.

God bless each of you and God Bless America!



The Rosebud News

251 Live Oak St
Marlin, TX 76661
Phone: (254) 883-2554
Fax:(254) 883-6553