That certain … crispness? … in the air reminds me of one of my favorite story assignments over the past thousand years or so. I was a reporter/columnist/feature writer for The Anchorage Daily News, and since I had a tolerance for eccentricities in others … well, they called me the weirdo reporter.
And one of the annual tasks that dropped in my lap was doing a story on what kind of a winter it’s going to be. And I did this story each August, you see. So will it be nasty cold, very mild, deep snow, no snow … that sort of thing.
It was fun. I’d call up old sourdoughs who’d give me some estimate and then tell me some weird reason why they thought so. You know, the bird calls changed from the key of C to G sharp, that kind of thing. And I’d call up some Native villages and get expert opinions from the old guys there. Fun story.
Well, this one year I thought, hey … we have a division of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration right here in Anchorage, and they have satellites and computers and all kindsa neat stuff. I’ll ask them.
So I called NOAA and said, what kind of a winter are we in for? And the guy said, “We really can’t predict beyond maybe a week at the most.” So I said, look, you have all those neat toys over there … why can’t you figure it out? And he said, well, Slim, let me see what I can put together and I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?
Now we’ll get some really educated information for the readers. I couldn’t wait.
So next day he calls and says his best guess is we’ll have a colder than usual winter. Super. And how did he arrive at that conclusion?
He hemmed and hawed, then said, “Well, the beavers are building their lodges in deeper water this year, so we should expect thicker than normal ice.”
Once again science triumphs over the tundra.
Brought to you by “Dogsled: A True Tale of the North,” Slim’s first book. Available on Amazon.com.