A Living History Skills series by Colonel Jerry Tubbs

How many times has the weatherman spoiled a campout with a forecast of no chance of rain? If your luck is like mine, too many to keep track of. Our Forefathers did not have modern forecasting facilities or the mass communication that we take for granted. They depended on the ability of being sensitive to the changes that naturally occur in nature. Those changes could be the color of the sky, the wind's direction and its smell, the flight of birds, dew on the ground or lack of dew, the cricket's chirp and hundreds of other signs that could foretell the changes of the weather.

While weather predictions today cover a large area, a person that watches the signs around him can predict more accurately the weather for his locale. Weather sometimes stalls or backs up. For that reason, normally accurate signs or saying can seem to be in error.

This article contains few rhymes and sayings which, throughout the years, have proven to be good weather guides. Most are self-explanatory but a few I will give an explanation to the reasoning.



Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning.
Red sky at night, sailors delight.

Evening red, morning gray,
Sets the traveler on his way;
Evening gray, morning red,
Brings down rain upon his head.

When birds roost in the middle of the day,
It means a storm is on the way.
(Birds roost in low bushes because it gives them protection from the storm, and the low pressure of the air is not conductive to flight)

Rain long foretold, long last;
Short notice, soon will pass

Slow showers last long,
But sudden storms are short.

Big drops, small rain,
Small drops, big rain.

When signs point to rain for several days, it usually means a slow moving warm front, which brings long, slow rains. Fast moving fronts are usually associated with dark clouds and heavy, short rain periods.

Halo around the sun or moon,
Rain or snow soon.

(Christ said, "When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say: 'There cometh a shower;' and so it is"

Rainbow in morning,
Gives you fair warning:
Rainbow at noon, rain soon

(Weather moves from west to east. When a rainbow is seen in the morning, the sun in the east is shinning on, or through, moisture in the west. When a rainbow is seen in the east, it usually means the opposite. That is, the rain has already come.

Animals and Insects

If ants their walls do frequent build,
Rain will from the clouds be spilled.

The gnats bite and I scratch in vain,
Because they know it's going to rain.

When a cow endeavors to scratch its ear,
It means a shower is very near.
When it thumps its ribs with angry tail,
Look out for thunder, lighting, hail.

If bees stay at home, rain will soon come,
If they fly away, fine will be the day.

When bees to distance wing their flight,
Days are warm and skys are bright;
But when their flight ends near their home,
Stormy weather is sure to come.

When spiders weave their webs by noon,
Fine weather is coming soon.

These are but a few of the signs that our Forefathers would have used to predict a change in the weather in his vicinity. These rhymes would have also help to foretell how long a storm may last.

Another thing to mention is we all have smelled how clean the air is after a shower. We might believe this is because of the rain washing clean the air but in fact it is because of high pressure that follows the low pressure of a storm. With low pressure, rotten wood, manure and other odors are able to escape and be picked up by our noses. When high pressure follows a storm, this forces the odors to the ground and thus is not as easy to detect.

Here is some sure fire signs to use on your next camp to forecast the weather with:

Ants moving in a line or building up there mounds around the entrance to their nest.
Metal rust overnight.
Fire is hard to start, but burns brighter and warmer.
Smoke does not rise, but goes to the ground.
Distant objects appear closer.
No morning dew on the grass.
Halo around the moon.
Bees go to their hives and stay.
Curls of hair start to kink.
Birds fly low or go to roost early.
Insect swarm or bite more than usual.

As mentioned earlier, these signs may not be totally accurate but can still add some skill to your persona. Try to remember a few of these rhymes or signs and share them with the public. Just keep this in mind, anything can happen in unsettled weather. C. L. Prince wrote," Do not neglect any of these signs, for it is good to compare one sign with another sign." If two agree, have hope you are right, but be assured still more by a third.

Happy camping and remember to keep your powder dry.

Creating a Character

Is That Gun Real?

What's in the Bag?

You need an Edge

What's Cooking?

Lighting up the Night

Keeping an Eye on the Sky

Getting Started

Then & Now

What type of Primitive Shelter is best for you?


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