Weather Wise

Jerry Apps

When I was a kid, there was no such thing as a TV weather report with radar images showing one exactly where a storm was located, and even suggesting how much rain or snow could be expected. Truth be known, there was no television in our neck of the woods until the early 1950s.

The old weather vane on top of the Apps' barn was am important tool for predicting the weather, according to Jerry Apps' father.

So how did we predict the weather? Farmers live by the weather, especially during the harvesting season, but also to a considerable extent throughout the year. For instance, you didn’t cut down 20 acres of alfalfa, if it rained the following day.

Pa was good at weather forecasting. He depended on two things, cloud formations and wind direction. We had a weather vane on top of our barn. First thing in the morning, Pa looked for the wind direction. If the wind was in the east, and the sky was red as blood, rain was on the way. The old saying, “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning” had much truth connected to it.

If the wind came from the west or the southwest, and there were but a few fluffy clouds floating along, we were in store for some clear weather. If it happened to be one of those rare days when we left farm work behind and went fishing, Pa would say, “Wind in the west fish bite best.” For a south wind, he would say, “Wind from the south blows the worm right in the fish’s mouth.” 

Pa was generally right about what kind of weather was on the way. He used his weather wisdom his whole life.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: In the olden days, weather forecasting was an art. I suspect it still is.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to