There are those who swear by the Farmer's Almanac. I have never been one of them.
I have enough trouble visualizing the weather while watching The Weather Channel. I sure don't need to experience it through a tired old saw like the Farmer's Almanac.
So it was with some skepticism that I borrowed a copy in the possession of one Jerry Thebado, Roundup editor (the paper gets a free copy). It was, the cover proclaimed, the original Robert B. Thomas Farmer's Almanac, first published in 1792.
And just to prove its lineage, there on the cover, right next to Robert B. Thomas, was a photo of Benjamin Franklin, whose "Poor Richard's Almanac" was quite well received in its time -- way before there was The Weather Channel.
As I thumbed through the almanac, it struck me that there is an easy way to test its credibility.
As everybody knows, the Rim country experienced record precipitation in February -- some 8 inches worth. If the Farmer's Almanac is at all accurate, it would somehow indicate that in February we could expect some serious precipitation.
Well it didn't. In fact, it predicted 1.1 inches of precipitation for February in this area.
But the weather forecasts only take 20 pages, so I decided to look elsewhere in the 256-page almanac for redeeming value -- especially as it relates to Payson and the Rim country.
In a section called "Anecdotes and Pleasantries," I learned that the universe is neither blue nor black, but more of a greenish purple -- determined by "combining the average value of all the light in thousands of galaxies." Until last spring, that is, when the researchers at Johns Hopkins University realized that their computer had made a mistake. The universe, they proclaimed, is actually beige.
I also learned that it is possible to garden after you're dead. Seems a Swedish biologist "recently developed a method of converting bodies into harmless -- and useful -- compost."
She plans to do her first stiff as soon as the Swedish government changes the law to allow it.
I also learned the four stages of a man's life:
- You believe in Santa Claus.
- You don't believe in Santa Claus.
- You are Santa Claus.
- You look like Santa Claus.
I also learned that if you are going to own a goat, the best kind is a Tennessee fainting goat. They don't really faint; their leg muscles go into a spasm so suddenly that they fall over.
"Oddly," the almanac points out, "it has the result of making them better meat goats because the repeated stiffening and relaxing of those muscles gives them a superior muscle tone."
I also learned from a table entitled "Maximum Life Spans of Animals in Captivity" that the oldest dog on record lived to be 29, the oldest cat 34, the oldest horse 62, and the oldest housefly 17 days.
I also learned that earwigs began crawling around the Earth 208 million years ago. Bet you didn't know that earwigs "mate indiscriminately in the summer but ... live monogamously in the winter."
I also learned that the female names Florence and Bertha, "numbers nine and 10 (in popularity) 100 years ago, don't even make the top 10,000 names today."
I also learned that the first TV dinners were made by Swanson in 1952 because the company's turkeys got along with each other too well in 1951. (Usually there is a 20- to 25-percent attrition rate because turkeys get in lots of fights and kill one another, according to Gerry Thomas, then a company salesman.)
Stuck with all those turkeys, Thomas came up with the TV dinner concept. "For his contribution to culinary history, Gerry Thomas was inducted into the American Frozen Food Institute's Frozen Food Hall of Fame in October 1998," the almanac informs us.
Very interesting stuff, I'm sure you will agree, but not particularly germane to the West. Then I found it -- an item in the Farmer's Almanac that relates to this part of the country.
Among the "Three Worst Puns" was the following:
"A three-legged dog walks into a saloon in the Old West. He slides up to the bar and announces: ‘I'm looking for the man who shot my paw.'"
For this reason and this reason alone I highly recommend "The Old Farmer's Almanac" as a source of vital information on the West.
Oh yeah, and because it has a hole punched in the upper left hand corner for easy hanging in your bathroom where it can serve the time-honored function once reserved for the Montgomery-Ward catalog.