Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 28.djvu/654

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rhymes, and it is due to this that it has been preserved to the present time; and, so far as I have been able to determine, not one of the rhymes or sayings has ever been published. That among the earliest papers and almanacs of the country there may be found some of them, or slightly different versions of the same, is probable, but my searchings therefor, in the larger libraries, have not resulted in any such discoveries.

The main interest, however, in connection with weather-lore, is to determine whether they do or do not correctly represent the relationship of the animals mentioned to the given condition of the weather. In other words, is the zoölogy of the weather-lore misrepresented or not? I am forced to declare that, as a rule, those who by virtue of their ingenuity framed these rhymes and brief sayings did not correctly interpret Nature.

Very many of the early English settlers were, no doubt, excellent observers; but they appear, at times, to have more desired to be looked upon as weather-prophets than as naturalists, and strove to have glib nonsense-sayings pass current as evidence of their wisdom, instead of taking pains to correctly interpret the course of Nature and determine the relation of animal life to its environment.

Often, during my rambles in the neighborhood, I have questioned the few remaining descendants of the original settlers concerning the local weather-proverbs, and I find the impression is still prevalent that the purport of all these sayings is substantially correct, and therefore, to a great degree, that my neighbors are laboring under erroneous impressions. "Is there not wisdom in a multitude of counselors?" they ask; and I, standing alone, am voted the fool, while they pose as sages.

Let us consider this weather-lore, bit by bit, as I have gathered it from time to time, and discuss its merits, if it possesses any, and also its absurdities.

Of such sayings as refer to our domestic animals, the following are the most noteworthy. Of the cow, I have heard it said:

"When a cow tries to scratch its ear,
It means a shower is very near ";

and again—

"When it thumps its ribs with its tail,
Look out for thunder, lightning, hail."

As is now pretty well known, a short time before a shower in summer, there is often a highly electrical condition of the atmosphere, which makes all animals more or less uneasy. Therefore, the lashing of the tail, if not merely to brush away flies, may refer to this uneasiness, and so, too, the ears may be more sensitive than the general surface of the body. This is a probable explanation, but, after all, it is not proved that the cow at such a time suffers as much from it as is supposed; nor is it easy to see how the flagellation of a very insignifi-