Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

October 10, 2012

Dire winter predictions as the campaign trail heats up on Sesame Street

When I walked out of the house Friday morning to get the newspaper out of the paper box, I noticed something unusual. A woolly worm — a solid black one at that — on the outside of the door.

I had never seen a woolly worm climbing a door before. Perhaps I was meant to see the little worm as a dire warning of a nasty winter ahead. He wasn’t the first woolly worm I’ve seen in recent days. In fact, I’ve seen several, and almost all of them have been brown to solid black, or near solid black.

Living in the country, I’ve grown accustomed to seeing plenty of wildlife. A deer just about every evening on the ride home from work. The two crows who also squawk at me each morning when I step outside to get the newspaper. The cat who, of course, is screaming for food each morning and night. The cows who are on the hillside just across the road that will occasionally let out a loud bellow as well. And even the occasional bear that disrupted my summer walking pattern.

That’s why seeing a few woolly worms isn’t very unusual. After all, I live right in front of a giant mountain. So I’ve grown accustomed to the wildlife — although those annoying crows can go. They always show up around Halloween when the leaves have fallen, or are beginning to fall, off of the giant and very old tree  in the front yard. It makes for the perfect Halloween scene.

 Given the unseasonably early onset of cooler temperatures this week, perhaps the woolly worms are on to something. After all, I’ve heard more than a few rumblings that we could be in for a very rough winter this year. Considering the extreme heat from the summer months, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a nasty winter. I hope I’m wrong. I’ll take a mild winter any year over a bad one.

 While there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to back up this theory, popular folklore in the region tells us that a solid black woolly worm is bad news. It’s a sign of a bad winter to come. Maybe even something capable of topping the great blizzard of 1993. Remember that one? Or the Snowmageddon storms of 2010 and 2011. How can we forget those. Sixty days of seemingly non-stop snow and zero sunlight.

A quick Google search of the word “woolly worm” netted several interesting theories.

One website said if the woolly worm is all brown, be prepared for the worst winter possible. I’ve seen a couple that were brownish black. It also indicated if the woolly worm has end bands that are narrow and more reddish brown, more than one blizzard is possible.

Sometimes, another good indicator of whether or not we are in for a bad winter is Halloween. If it snows on or around Halloween, that’s normally not a good sign.

It’s interesting to note that back in 1993 — the year of the great blizzard — we had snow on Halloween. In fact, the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Va., recorded 3.2 inches of snow on Halloween 1993. And we all know what happened after that. A quick glimpse of the new Farmer’s Almanac also seems to be suggesting snow and colder temperatures for the region this winter.

lll

One presidential debate down, two more to go. Plus the vice presidential debate on Thursday.

What did we learn from the first presidential debate? Well President Obama apparently wasn’t very prepared for the debate, or didn’t get a good night’s sleep the night before. And Republican Mitt Romney has finally decided to get aggressive. But otherwise little has changed. The electorate is still largely divided and polarized. And it’s not surprising that they are.

If there is one thing we’ve learned during this ugly campaign season, it is that anything anyone says can be turned around, twisted, and made to sound like something entirely different. And then the false information can be force-fed to the masses courtesy of an unidentified super political action committee.

So candidates beware. Choose your words wisely. After all, an October surprise could be just around the corner. And it may be your own words taken out of context, or twisted to say something else. Take all of the hoopla over Big Bird for example. Did Romney not realize that he would be setting himself up for a lot of Sesame Street grief when he went after Big Bird on national television?

What did Big Bird do, after all, to deserve being called out in front of an audience of more than 50 million people? Now, Romney has protesters dressed up as Big Bird following him on the campaign trail. How long will it be before Elmo joins in the protest — or worse yet — the Cookie Monster or The Count. I guess the whole Sesame Street controversy is enough to qualify as an October surprise.

Remember, kids love Big Bird. And a lot of adults still have fond memories of him as well.

It’s enough to make you long for the good old days of elections past. Back when the candidates actually talked about issues. Back when the television commercials actually said something. Back when I didn’t get these wacky mailers stuck in my mailbox telling me why President Obama has ruined the country, and why Mitt Romney has shipped all of our jobs overseas.

And back when Big Bird wasn’t a part of the campaign debate.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens.

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