TURNIP HOLE, N.C. — My new quarterly assignment here at the Almanak is to stop by Rodney Devine’s place out on Old Plank Road. Around these parts he’s recognized as the authority when it comes to forecasting the weather. Yesterday morning I drove out to his farm. I found him out behind the house rooting through his shed. He was having a few choice words with the junk that had accumulated, so I leaned against a fence post and listened.
It wasn’t long before he emerged with his “tools.” After saying our hellos, we headed for his pasture. His tools consisted of a rod and reel in one hand and a kite in the other. I couldn’t help but notice that the kite’s tail was made from what looked to be hair from a horse’s tail. When I asked Rodney if such was the case, he looked at me as if my brain were made of mincemeat and responded with his usual aplomb. “You work at the paper, right? Now, if I give up my secrets to the likes of you, then who’d be buyin’ my dang weather vanes, T-shirts and such down at the farm market?”
Rodney proceeded to tie the fishing line to the kite. He grabbed the pole and handed me the kite. We turned to the south and ran directly into the wind. Once the kite was airborne, Rodney set the drag and, like fishermen everywhere, let the fishing line dangle across his forefinger. He closed his eyes and started talking. “Next month will start out slightly cooler than normal. Then towards the middle of the month we’ll be in for a real scorcher. I mean hotter than the sun’s anvil.”
When his eyelids and forefinger began twitching, I thought he was going to start speaking in tongues. I hesitated and asked, “It’s all in the finger, isn’t it?”
His eyes popped open. “Now, Greg,” he said. “You know better than to ask that question. I will tell you this much—you gotta use a twelve-pound test line.”
He closed his eyes again and continued. “Gardens will be in real trouble if folks don’t water ’em regular, but greens will grow like wildfire if they do.”
Rodney grew silent. He kicked off his left boot, stepped directly into a warm, moist cowpie, reeled the kite in about ten turns, and continued. “We won’t see any real rain till the middle of July, and when it comes, it’s going to come in spades. Toward the end of the month, things will get back on an even keel, and temperatures will stay slightly below normal until fall rolls around.”
Rodney opened his eyes, reeled in the kite, and handed me the pole. I grabbed his boot, and we walked back to the shed. As I attempted to find a place for the pole, Rodney said, “Just throw it on the pile. I got no plans to use it anytime soon.”
“Won’t we be needing it again in the fall?” I inquired.
“Nope,” said Rodney.
A look of confusion must have crossed my face, so he continued. “You see, every season’s got it’s own particular technique and tools, and I never know what Mother Nature will require until the last minute.”
I simply smiled and thought I can’t wait.