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Cow Spleens, Geese Flocking & Squirrels

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Cow Spleens, Geese Flocking & Squirrels

What do the animals have to say about the upcoming winter?

Earwigs are bad this year.

I’m finding them in my laundry pile, in the sink with my dishes and I even found one inside my loaf of bread.

They’re marching through the house six-by-six, hurrah, like ants headed for a sugar bowl.

When I was a kid someone told me that earwigs were to be feared. They’d climb inside your ears while you were sleeping and start nibbling away at your brain, make little nests in your frontal lobe and give birth to hundreds of miniscule baby earwigs who would eventually come back out your ears and nose to wreak more havoc on the world.

The only thing scarier than having my brain eaten by the creepy little bugs with menacing pinchers: The idea that their presence might be a sign of another long, hard winter.

I dubbed last winter “The Winter of My Discontent.” The thought of a repeat was enough to scare me out of my Spirit Lake home and into a condominium where someone else will be responsible for the shoveling.

Perhaps I made the decision hastily. It’s hard to tell.

You ask the old timers what kind of winter we’re going to have and it’s a crapshoot.

John Dunlap is sitting next to me at the Post Falls American Legion telling me it’s going to be a “medium winter,” but a day earlier William H. Miller told me it’s going to be a doozy.

“The squirrels are working their asses off storing nuts so it’s gonna be a bad winter coming,” says Miller, a well-known Silver Valley rebel rouser who everyone calls “Uncle Bill.”

He’s been watching the squirrels from the front porch of his Kellogg home, the same home where he was born in 1935.

Uncle Bill said the spiders predicted that last winter was going to be bad. One bit him. It was either a brown recluse or a black widow.

“I was lame for three days,” he said, sipping a Milwaukee’s Best. “It was one of the worst winters we had for a lot of years.”

While a lot of the regulars at the Post Falls Legion go by what Coeur d’Alene Press climatologist Cliff Harris says about the coming winter, Dunlap puts his money on the birds and cow spleens.

“There’s going to be a lot of snow, but I don’t think it’s going to be that cool,” Dunlap said. “The birds are not moving as fast. I’ve not seen any flocks of geese. Usually this time of year you see them start gathering in flocks.”

The geese are still in the fields.

A chat with the butchers on Highway 41 is further confirmation that this winter might not be too bad, Dunlap says. They can tell by the way the spleen lies in a butchered cow.

Lorna Carpenter predicts a cold winter. Something close to last year, judging from the activity in her garden.

She’s seen very few spiders and bees.

“It’s going to be cold faster,” she said.

Based on what the old timers have to say, it appears the jury is out on Old Man Winter.

Put me in the category of expect the worst and hope for the best.

Summer has gone by so fast, I haven’t even had time to observe the birds and bees and pontificate on weather predictions.

Chuck Hoard tells me the Indians are the best at forecasting.

“If the rock is hot, it’s hot weather,” he says. “If it’s wet it’s raining.”

When the rock is white, well, winter is here.

Funny guy. Only one who is funnier is the guy from the draft horse barn at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds who promises to tell me what kind of winter we’re having “at the end of March.”

“I don’t predict the weather,” Dick Frank says. “Only damn fools and newcomers do that.”

Note: The Farmer’s Almanac predicts a “frigid” winter, though not as bad here as in the Midwest,  but the National Weather Service says a strong El Nino will result in warmer-than-normal temperatures throughout the winter, especially in the north.

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Taryn Hecker Taryn Hecker is a freelance writer and photographer in Spirit Lake, Idaho.

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