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Is It Going To Rain?
by [?]

I suspect that, like most countrymen, I was born with a chronic anxiety about the weather. Is it going to rain or snow, be hot or cold, wet or dry?–are inquiries upon which I would fain get the views of every man I meet, and I find that most men are fired with the same desire to get my views upon the same set of subjects. To a countryman the weather means something,–to a farmer especially. The farmer has sowed and planted and reaped and vended nothing but weather all his life. The weather must lift the mortgage on his farm, and pay his taxes, and feed and clothe his family. Of what use is his labor unless seconded by the weather? Hence there is speculation in his eye whenever he looks at the clouds, or the moon, or the sunset, or the stars; for even the Milky Way, in his view, may point the direction of the wind to-morrow, and hence is closely related to the price of butter. He may not take the sage’s advice to “hitch his wagon to a star,” but he pins his hopes to the moon, and plants and sows by its phases.

Then the weather is that phase of Nature in which she appears not the immutable fate we are so wont to regard her, but on the contrary something quite human and changeable, not to say womanish,–a creature of moods, of caprices, of cross purposes; gloomy and downcast to-day, and all light and joy to-morrow; caressing and tender one moment, and severe and frigid the next; one day iron, the next day vapor; inconsistent, inconstant, incalculable; full of genius, full of folly, full of extremes; to be read and understood, not by rule, but by subtle signs and indirections,–by a look, a glance, a presence, as we read and understand a man or a woman. Some days are like a rare poetic mood. There is a felicity and an exhilaration about them from morning till night. They are positive and fill one with celestial fire. Other days are negative and drain one of his electricity.

Sometimes the elements show a marked genius for fair weather, as in the fall and early winter of 1877, when October, grown only a little stern, lasted till January. Every shuffle of the cards brought these mild, brilliant days uppermost. There was not enough frost to stop the plow, save once perhaps, till the new year set in. Occasionally a fruit-tree put out a blossom and developed young fruit. The warring of the elements was chiefly done on the other side of the globe, where it formed an accompaniment to the human war raging there. In our usually merciless skies was written only peace and good-will to men, for months.

What a creature of habit, too, Nature is as she appears in the weather! If she miscarry once she will twice and thrice, and a dozen times. In a wet time it rains to-day because it rained yesterday, and will rain to-morrow because it rained to-day. Are the crops in any part of the country drowning? They shall continue to drown. Are they burning up? They shall continue to burn. The elements get in a rut and can’t get out without a shock. I know a farmer who, in a dry time, when the clouds gather and look threatening, gets out his watering-pot at once, because, he says, “it won’t rain, and ’tis an excellent time to apply the water.” Of course, there comes a time when the farmer is wrong, but he is right four times out of five.

But I am not going to abuse the weather; rather to praise it, and make some amends for the many ill-natured things I have said, within hearing of the clouds, when I have been caught in the rain or been parched and withered by the drought.