An e-mail from Debbie Caldwell, managing editor of the Harlan Daily Enterprise, said, “I saw a big black woolly worm this morning and I thought of you.”
I took that to mean that Debbie is wringing her hands and pacing the floor in Harlan while she anxiously awaits the winter forecast, a free and sometimes courteous service provided by the National Association of Woolly Worm Winter Weather Watchers (NAWWWWW).
Those of you who have been reading this column over the last 30-plus years already know the woollies named me their official human spokesperson back when I was a young man because I am one of the very few two-legged animals with flexible thumbs who can understand and, more or less, accurately interpret woolly-wormish, which is the official language of the worm-speaking world. You may also know that the primary responsibility of my official capacity is to relate NAWWWWW’s winter forecast to humankind on an annual basis.
Anyway, Debbie’s communiqué happens to coincide with a massive home improvement project that Loretta and I are currently undertaking, a part of which includes replacing the siding on the sizable building that is supposed to be my workshop and our two-car garage.
When the construction crew commenced hammering and clawing on the walls of the so-called “garage”, the racket they created disturbed what I would call a huge bevy of woolly worms that had taken up lodging inside the dark nooks and crannies between the interior and exterior layers of the old structure.
I went out to do a progress check late in the day and discovered dozens of woolly worms, I would guess at least 200, scurrying about the driveway, through the lawn and into Joe Brown’s big pasture which begins directly behind our garage. Turns out that these guys were all members of NAWWWWW and they were housed in the garage simply biding their time and waiting for the asphalt to cool down enough for them to be comfortable while conducting their annual forecasting convention.
Needless to say, they were not pleased about being so rudely disturbed and even in woolly-wormish, the language they were using could not possibly be printed in a family newspaper. I was able, however, to speak with a number of the more-level headed woollies before they departed, like, certain members of the World Wrestling Federation, to parts unknown.
I am at least as sure of the accuracy of the information I was able to gain as I am in that of any journalist who gets his or her news from “confidential, inside sources.” So here’s what I learned from the high level informants at NAWWWWW who might face serious retaliation if they were identifi ed in the paper.
Look for the coming winter to be pretty much like last year, temperaturewise.
In other words, generally mild. However, this year conditions will be much wetter throughout the season than they were a year ago. The eastern Kentucky mountains can expect a few significant snowfalls in the 8- to 16-inch accumulation levels while moisture here in the knobs and flatlands will be mostly in the form of rain. Late December, most of February, and early March will be snowy in both eastern and central parts of the state but it will melt off pretty rapidly.
While NAWWWWW typically concentrates its forecast on the eastern half of Kentucky, insiders noted that nobody should be planning to travel to northeastern Pennsylvania between Halloween and Easter. “It’s gonna look like the return of the ice age to folks who live around Wind Gap,” one rep told me.
“People who live there would be well advised to stock huge stores of scrapple in their pantries now,” he said, “because they are not even going to be able to get outside and make it to the diner.”