As mentioned in my bio, I used to write a weekly newspaper column. One day as I was pondering ideas for the current week’s column, I was in a panic. The well from which comes ideas for my column was running low. Since it was a nostalgia column of sorts, I decided to get in the car and head over to my old stomping grounds in the highlands of Southeast Idaho at a place called Soda Springs to see if that might trigger some ideas. Soda Springs is located on the Old Oregon trail, and it derived its name from travelers passing through on their trek to Oregon because of the numerous soda water springs located there. Bubbling from these effervescent springs is naturally carbonated water that tastes just like club soda. While I was there I had occasion to visit with a past farmer neighbor. We got into a discussion of how things were in the past, and a few ideas started coming to the fore; traditions, legends, and what some folks claim are old wives tales. It seems every area has its own variations of these.
The more we talked, the more of these legends and traditions came to mind, and the well of ideas was replenishing. For instance, Soda Springs has the legend of the seven. Most winters, on a hill east of town, there is a snowdrift where, as the snow begins to melt, there forms the number seven. I’m told the old timers around Soda Springs used that seven as a judge by which to plant their gardens. According to legend, not until the tail on the seven cut in two, was it time to plant.
As we stood in the yard in front of his machine shed, we looked out across the field to a grove of Quaking Aspens located on the side of a hill in the distance. My neighbor friend mentioned that another tradition fostered by many of the old timers was that you not plant barley in this highland valley until the “Quakies” come into bud, giving off a green cast from a distance. I said, “yes, I had heard that one, also.”
This reminded me of what another of the old timers who has since passed away, and in my opinion, was the best farmer in that valley, had told me many years ago when I was a young pup just starting out. He said that he liked to wait until the 20th of May before planting barley on his re-crop land because he didn’t want it ripening during the heat of the summer. The tradition of many dry land farmers is to plant a piece of land two or three consecutive years, and then let it lay fallow one year. Re-crop land doesn’t have as much reserve moisture as land that had been fallow the previous year. So if the crop ripens in the hottest of the summer heat, it will shrivel the kernels, thus diminishing the quality of the grain. I followed that tradition of delaying my re-crop planting, myself, for many years after he told me that.
The conversation with my former neighbor continued. I asked him, “Have you heard the one about the Chokecherry blossoms?” He said he hadn’t. I told him that I had always heard: “that as long as the Choke Cherries were in bloom you could still plant barley and have a long enough season to make a crop.” I don’t know if I would put too much stock in that one or not. At six thousand feet elevation, that valley didn’t have that long a growing season. One hundred days, plus or minus ten, was the general rule. I’ve seen Choke Cherries bloom until nearly the end of June, and if you plant barley north of Soda Springs much after the tenth of June, your chances of making a crop are pretty slim. However, I do remember a year many years ago when a farmer planted up until July 1st.
All his neighbors, including this writer, thought it was a wasted effort, but luck was with him that year. The frosts came late, and the crop matured; the fall was long and warm, and he managed to gather the crop before the winter snows fell.
As we continued our discussion, I asked my colleague when he was planning to start his spring field work that spring. This was Saturday, and he said he thought he’d start the following Monday. I reminded him that it had rained on Easter. He said, “that’s right.” According another legend we had both heard most of our lives, and what some would call an old wives tale; “if it rains on Easter, it’ll rain for the following seven Sundays.” I don’t recall if that one held true that year, but I do I recall when there were years when it did.
And last but not least, is the legend about predicting the winter in Soda Springs. Another farmer neighbor of mine told me about this one. He heard it from another of the “old timers.” It has to do with the first three days in December. The weather on those first three days will reflect the kind of weather during December, January, and February. In other words, if December 1st is sunny and dry, so will be the month of December. If the second day is cold and wet, so will me the month of January, and so on. I did pay attention to this one winter, and by golly, as I remember, it was pretty close.
Now, while you’re here, why not slip back up to upper right of this page to the free download button where you can click on and receive a free copy(while they last) of the prologue and first three adventures of Buddy…His Trials and Treasures.