By Tim Kalinowski
Sometimes it ain’t easy being a human barometer. Take my word for it. For the past 20 years I have been becoming more and more attuned to the weather, especially here in the Cypress Hills region where I grew up. It started out as a vague unease in my stomach before severe storms struck. Now it is a headache every time the barometer rises or falls markedly. And my stomach still does that nausea thing when severe weather is a few hours out.
It helps I also learned how to read the sky and clouds from a retired farmer, and reputed weather prophet, in my hometown of Gull Lake, Saskatchewan named Ray Orton. I was his newspaper delivery boy back then, and was always a keen student of his lessons on clouds and reading the high and low atmosphere conditions. He taught me to look at the sky like a tracker looking for sign in the snow.
I don’t often advertise this sensitivity, but people have noticed over the years anyway. About ten years ago I worked with a mobile seed cleaner in southwest Saskatchewan which had to go into some deep rural areas off the beaten track. No access to smart phones (which didn’t really exist at that time anyway). The first time I predicted snow a few hours out, and expressed concern about the road conditions on the way home, my boss took it with a grain of salt. We struggled to come home that night in some pretty blustery conditions.
After that we would ask me first thing in the morning how I “felt” about the weather that day and then again later on, just before shutting down. On more than one occasion I predicted snow by morning and we would take extra effort to tarp up for the night. I was usually right.
When I was covering the Ralston Rodeo earlier this year I was sitting next to some British soldiers. The day was chill, but the rain hadn’t started yet. The weather reports predicted rain so I had my raincoat on anyway. The feeling in my barometer brain said it will start to rain in a few minutes. I pronounced that to the soldiers sitting beside me and pulled up my hood and pulled my rain hat close over my eyes. They looked on me like my old seed cleaner boss did that first day. It started to rain hard about thirty seconds later.
They watched me carefully for the rest of the day taking weather cues when it was a good time to go down from the bleachers to the more sheltered area below to buy a beer and wait out a squall. We had a great chat about rodeo, Canada and things prairie weather-related. They even bought me a few beers.
I think every one of us has these same sensitivities, but over the generations, as we have become increasingly distant from the land as a people, those sensitivities are being subsumed, denied and potentially lost along the way.
I have seen mysterious abilities in people growing up in the country; those who are horse whisperers, pig-spleen readers and water witchers. My instinct when hearing of these things is to first believe, and then crosscheck against empirical evidence to confirm. In fact I did a substantial part of my Master’s degree on that very thing. I can tell you without question there is definitely something to it.
So next time you are out and about and you have a strange feeling of pressure building up or the birds have suddenly gone too silent make sure you take a look to the sky.