Old wives tales – superstitions – are amusing nonsense today, unless you believe them. Cracking your knuckles will cause arthritis in those joints. As a child, my mother warned me not to sit close to the television set, or “I’d go blind”. Spill a salt shaker, that would bring bad luck (da Vinci certainly believed it) . Discovering a penny on the ground and picking it up will bring luck (today, with inflation, you’d better find a dollar). Health tales – eating carrots for sight, chicken soup to cure colds, and eating turkey brings on sleepiness, are generally good advice, but not in themselves, anything special. Anybody will tell you healthy diet is good for you. Drinking lots of liquids to remain hydrated and flush out bodily toxins is good. Overeating, particularly during holiday gatherings, are more likely than consuming the bird to bring on drowsiness. One of my favorites, was a joke that my neighbor and I shared on Saturday. He washed his new car and we joked that it was going to rain. (The sky was almost clear.) Yet I washed my car yesterday afternoon and it began raining last night.
But not all superstitious tales are unsubstantiated nonsense. They can be based somewhere in time loosely on observed conditions. In the two hundred years that Benjamin Franklin first published the Farmers Almanac, it has predicted winter weather between 50 and 80 percent accurately. (One source said, even at 50 percent, it was more accurate than a certain Pennsylvania groundhog.) In the Ozark mountains of the southeastern United States, one tale says that cutting a persimmon seed in half to reveal a spoon-shape within predicts heavy, wet winter snow, a fork shape predicts a mild winter, and a knife shape, cold harsh winter winds. The 2015 article says it has been proved accurate 13 out of 17 years! I have found other superstitions quoted, such as a dog eating grass may be a way of knowing rain is on the way. However, I am thinking, and most dog-walkers in Southern California might agree, an enthusiastic, urgent dog (Dexter and Comet both demanded a second walk in the mid-afternoon yesterday) may be a sign of inclement weather ahead. It rained from early evening through this morning. And again, I did wash my car yesterday, before I took the dogs for a walk.