It was getting late down in the fall one afternoon when I was a kid out on the farm with nothing to do. I knew better than to tell my grandmother that I was bored, because she would always find something for me to do, which was generally some kind of work. However, I was in fact, bored to death and somehow she always had a sixth-sense in that department.

“Go outside and find me a woolly worm,” she said, “then, bring it here for me to see.”

Hey, this sounds like fun I thought, chasing woolly worms, that’s right down my alley. I checked out the weeds and what was left of the flowers on the way to the garden; I was sure there had to be a woolly worm out there somewhere. I got side-tracked when a big old blacksnake scurried across my path, so I chased him across the garden and out past the chicken house towards the barn, but he was too fast for me to catch up with, so I went back to looking for woolly worms.

Finally, after a good 30-minutes I found a big fat black one on the underneath side of a big leaf of some kind. So, I headed back into the kitchen where grandma was canning applesauce. “A big blacksnake crossed my path out in the garden, so I chased him off,” I told her excitingly, “but, I did find you a woolly worm.”

“Oh, he’s a big one,” she exclaimed. “When the woolly worms are fat and black like this in late fall, a bad winter can be expected; if they are light brown, expect a mild winter. But, we can probably look for rain later today, because when a snake crosses your path, it generally means rain.”

“The weatherman on TV this morning didn’t say anything about rain today,” I argued.

“Oh, they don’t know anything, they’re just guessing,” she scoffed.

Since civilization began, predictions of coming weather conditions have been a favorite topic of conversation. Before the days of super technology and the weather satellites, the old timers had to use the signs of nature for making such predictions. Although those earlier day weather signs are looked upon as superstition today, scientists do agree that some of those early signs had merit. Atmospheric conditions do cause drastic changes in our natural surroundings and those early Jackson County farmers depended on those predictions with some accuracy.

Believe me; my grandmother knew all of those so called “superstitions”, such as fat and dark colored woolly worms.

When clouds hide the sunset, expect rain. “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning, red sky at night, the sailors delight. A month’s bad weather can be expected when a new moon comes on Saturday. If it starts raining before seven, it will quit before eleven. Rainbows in the morning mean another storm is on the way. Rainbows in the evening mean fair weather ahead. When dogs eat grass and cats sneeze, rain will soon fall.

A ring around the moon with no stars in it means there will be rain or snow within 24 hours. The number of days that the winter’s first snow stays on the ground tells how many more snows will come before spring. Spring will soon be here when the first Robin appears. When the dandelions bloom in April, expect July to be hot and wet. The number of days over a hundred in July is the same number of days that it will be below zero in January.

And our favorite prediction of course, when the groundhog comes out of his hole on Feb. 2, sees his shadow and runs back in, it means six more weeks of winter weather.

Ted W. Stillwell is available to speak before any club, church, civic, senior, or school groups.

To reach Ted W. Stillwell, send and email to or call him at 816-252-9909.