Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 28.djvu/653

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635
ANIMAL WEATHER-LORE.

ANIMAL WEATHER-LORE.
By CHARLES C. ABBOTT, M. D.

HAPPILY there still remain a few of those great, cavernous, open fireplaces, flanked by high-backed settles, whereon the young people love to lounge, while their elders, resting from the day's labors, talk drowsily of old times, recount the adventures of their youth, and repeat the tales of their grandfathers. As one of such young people, I have passed many long winter evenings, listening eagerly to what the septuagenarians might relate, and occasionally venturing a question or two, that more light might be thrown upon obscure portions of remarks made at the time. Then, particularly, are we likely to hear much of that very curious animal weather-lore that, for the past two centuries, has been handed down from father to son. Time and again, as the weather chanced to be discussed, I have heard some uncouth rhyme repeated, usually prefaced with the remark, "You know the old saying."

That all animals are more or less affected by coming atmospheric changes is unquestionable. This simple fact has been recognized the world over, but, unlike many other simple facts, has not resulted in leading to any important discoveries. It has, however, given rise to the innumerable sayings to which I have referred.

Inasmuch as the animal weather-lore current in England and Sweden dates far prior to the settlement of this country by the Swedes and English, it would seem probable that such sayings as now are or recently were current in South and Central New Jersey are merely adaptations of English and Swedish weather-lore to our fauna, just as the European names of the commoner birds found there were applied to those American species most closely resembling them; and so, any rhyme or brief saying referring to them would be applied to the analogous bird found here. This is eminently reasonable, for, if the given habit, voice, or other peculiarity of a European bird did, or was supposed to, indicate a given meteorological condition, the same rule should hold good in America. As a matter of fact, however, I can find no similarity between the English and Swedish and the American weather-lore, except such as applies to domestic animals; nor do I find any common English sayings in use.

That which I have heard, and have recorded from time to time, appears to have originated where now, or where it lately was, in use. To a great extent, I believe it to be original with the descendants of the immigrants that settled Central New Jersey and the country generally about Philadelphia; but a portion of it, very possibly, was derived from the Indians.

At present, a portion of this weather-lore is repeated as nursery