Waiting for a mild November to even out in winter

The weather, based on experience, will balance itself out.

"Many who celebrate a snow skimpy November warn that a price will be paid for the break come December and January," Mychal Wilmes says. Kenzie Homberg / Grand Vale Creative LLC

The half-dozen wild turkeys leisurely moving through soybean stubble beneath a late November blue sky may have — like the human who watched them — been celebrating a winter slow in its coming.

Many who celebrate a snow skimpy November warn that a price will be paid for the break come December and January. The National Weather Service forecasts equal chances for above and below average temperatures and snowfall for the next three months.

The weather, based on experience, will balance itself out. The winter of 1978-79, which yielded record snowfall and record cold across most of the Midwest, comes to mind. Harvest had finished without too many weather complications and a warm winter was anticipated.

Dad had a suspicion that forecasters guessed more than then they knew about the weather, and trusted nature’s signals. When a wooly caterpillar’s brownish band around its middle was wider, the winter would be milder. When it was narrow, a harsh winter would follow.

Thicker than normal acorn shells and corn husks, bigger pinecones, and numerous foggy August mornings indicated a tougher winter. Scientists say the old sayings are folklore.


Dad wasn’t shy about sharing his evidence with me.

I thought it bizarre when — during a long rainy and cold spell that ruined alfalfa when it about to be baled – he said that the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union was messing with the weather. The satellites that pierced the sky violated God’s creation and a price was to be paid for doing so.

He nonetheless was fascinated when television showed men walking on the moon after Apollo 11 landed there in July 1969.

Many would welcome an old-fashioned winter when snowbanks soared above electrical and telephone lines. Resorts want thick ice for ice fishing and the snowmobile industry needs abundant trails. Memories fade, but few forget how toothless winters severely damaged the snowmobile industry in its prime.

Many people are credited with inventing the snowmobile. Among their lot are O.M. Erickson and Art Olsen of the P.N. Bushnell Company of Aberdeen, South Dakota. In 1914, they built an open-seater “motor-bob’’ from a doctored Indian motorcycle. Others credit Joseph Bombardier, a Canadian who constructed one in 1935. His invention involved a large car body attached to skies. Polaris modified it and produced what can be called the modern snowmobile in the mid-1950s. Others credit northern European inventors.

Snowmobiles were red hot in the early 1970s and manufacturers jumped in to meet demand. More than 250 brands were marketed by companies that included John Deere, Massey Ferguson, Herters, Evinrude, and Mercury. Nearly 500,000 machines were sold in 1971, and sales were expected to reach 1 million annually by the end of the decade.

The industry took a big hit in 1973, when the Environmental Protection Agency reacted to complaints about snowmobile engine noise and created rules that made the machines more expensive. Mandates followed to improve machine durability. The OPEC oil embargo increased fuel costs by 300% and the recession that followed left less disposable income in consumers’ pockets.

Snowmobiling regained its footing in the 1990s.


My brother bought a new snowmobile from a farm equipment dealer in the 1970s. He allowed his youngest brother to take it on a short pasture run in return for cleaning a calf pen without his help. Dad, who thought the only good noise in the pasture was the sound of a crosscut or chainsaw, didn’t think it wise.

“Don’t kill yourself on it,’’ he said, before adding that we should play checkers instead.

The machine died long before I did. It had little more than 100 miles on it when it gave up its ghost. By my accounting, the ownership expense amounted to approximately $1 dollar for each mile traveled.

The machine sat outside for several years before it was mercifully put out of its misery. It may have been a mistake to destroy it because odd and old brands are popular with collectors.

To read more of Mychal Wilmes' Farm Boy Memories, click here.

Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minn., with his wife, Kathy.

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