At the end of the fishing season, the old man from the mountains said to me: "Gonna be a hard, especially hard winter this year."
When the old man speaks of such things, I've learned to listen. He watches the wildlife, the trees and plants, the sky and the water. He studies them as some people study microbes or mutual funds. And the old man's been doing it since he was a wee child.
I though of him today as news came of the first great storm of winter beginning to lash the Great Plains, burying the Dakotas (among other places) in snow. The brunt of this, the first big winter storm of the season, stretches from roughly Kentucky north to the Canadian border.
Certainly folks in places such as Minnesota and all around the Great Lakes expect weather like this by about this time of year. Nothing really unusual in what's happening now.
But some of the world's better weather predictors, not all of them in this country, have been suggesting for some time that this winter may be fiercer than normal. And the people who put together that old Bible of the weather known as the Old Farmer's Almanac have been saying much the same thing.
Such folks are sometimes wrong: the scientific experts and the almanac-style historical buffs. With long historical records and with all of our new satellite, high-tech wonders, predicting winters is still a tricky game.
Who knows what this winter will bring. But for my part, I look at the weather news today and say, "Hmmm, you know, I think the old man from the mountains may be right. Again."