Click Here To Learn More About John McDonald
The first time I went to England I remember asking the woman who ran the bed and breakfast where I stayed, Mrs. Howell, how the English handled all the rain they got almost every day. First she wanted to make it clear that it wasn't just the English people who were getting rained on every day but the Irish, Welsh and Scots as well. Then she poured herself more tea, nibbled on a scone and went on about how all the rain over the years had turned the British Isles into one of the most lush and green places on the planet.
Once she got going about weather in the British Isles she just couldn't stop. She said the British never plan outdoor events ahead of time and never bother listening to weather forecasts on the “telly” because no one knows from one minute to the next what the weather in will be, least of all people who insist they DO know.
So what do you do? I asked. How do you handle all the rainy weather?
She said: If we look outdoors and see the sun is shining we drop everything and run outdoors and have a picnic right then, because we never know how long it will be before another picnic situation returns.
I was surprised to hear Mrs. Howell talk about her picnics that way because she didn't look like the type of person who had ever done an unplanned or spontaneous thing in her life.
Anyway, I thought of Mrs. Howell last week when BOTH my almanacs – The Farmers' Almanac, published in Lewiston, and The Old Farmer's Almanac, published over to the west in Dublin, N.H. – arrived here at Storyteller Central within hours of each other. How they did that I'll never know!
Why do you get both The Farmers' Almanac AND The Old Farmer's Almanac? I can hear some of you ask. The obvious reason is I like to check and cross-check and then check again to see if their weather predictions are anywhere near close to each other. They're often closer than you think.
Both almanacs say their weather-prediction formulas are secret and can never be revealed to anyone outside a close circle of trusted weather predictors – and I can respect that. And the system must work because after several hundred years of almanacs, the secret weather predicting formulas are still – as far as I know – a secret. At least I don't know any more about their formulas than I did when I first started reading almanacs over 40 years ago. In fact, I bet if the secret to the atomic bomb had been given to these secretive almanac people instead of the supposed secret-keeping bureaucrats in Washington, the Russians would still be trying to figure it out.
I do know that almanac publishers – like people who call into all-night radio shows – are always talking about sunspots and how these magnetic storms on the surface of the sun can affect everything from the weather to our mental state.
Years ago I had a shop teacher named Mr. Leighton who could predict the weather as well as anyone I've ever known. He was a Down Easter who had gone to sea a few years and then returned to Maine to build boats for a while. Eventually he got a teaching certificate.
On rainy mornings we'd often ask Mr. Leighton what the weather would be like in the afternoon when school got out. He'd look casually out the window at his thermometer, then check his wind gauge, barometer, and tide chart, think for a minute and then say, This'll all blow out to sea by noon. And you know what? It almost always did.
As far as I know Mr. Leighton never worked for any secretive almanac outfit. But I also know that he never offered to share his predicting secrets, either.
In most cases all people want to know around this time of year about the weather is: Will tomorrow be sunny or not? Because, as Larry the Cable Guy says: A day without sunshine is like night.
There's a guy who can't keep a secret.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
Would you like to read past issues of Numb As A Pounded Thumb?
Click Here