by Jerry Zezima
STAMFORD, Conn. – Maybe it’s because my head is in the clouds, or the heat is really getting to me, but I like to think I can predict the weather better than the National Weather Service.
And unlike such respected TV weather anchors as Lonnie Quinn and Al Roker, I don’t use radar, satellites or European models. In fact, I have always thought the best European model is Heidi Klum.
At any rate, I owe my prodigious prognosticating powers to the greatest meteorological device ever devised.
I refer, of course, to the Davis Hill Weather Stick.
It is, yes, a stick that rises or falls depending on, yes, the weather. If it’s sunny and dry, which is perfect for lying in a hammock with a beer, the thin piece of wood points upward. But if it’s cloudy and humid, often a harbinger of rain, which means I have to go inside for a brew, the stick points downward.
What could be simpler? Or, at $6 a pop, cheaper?
To find out more about the amazing properties of the weather stick, several of which are now on my property, I called the Davis Hill Company in East Hardwick, Vermont, and spoke with “chief cook and bottle washer” Tim Hartt.
“I’ve been doing this for 36 years now and I sell 25,000 of these things a year,” said Tim, who’s also a pig farmer. “The sticks keep me honest and put gas in the truck.”
Because he grosses about $70,000 a year, that’s a lot of gas.
“There’s no money in farming,” said Tim, who has “a little 22-acre place with 400 free-range meat birds, three or four hogs and a laying flock of 100 birds that lay a couple of dozen eggs a day.”
“So in order to make ends meet,” I suggested, “you have to get on the stick.”
“I’m glad you said it, not me,” replied Tim, who told me that the weather sticks are made from balsam fir trees. “Every tree in nature reacts to moisture in the air,” he said, “but balsam firs react more dramatically. Their branches go up and down depending on how much moisture there is. So friends and I go into the woods during harvest, strip wood off the trees and make weather sticks.”
“Do they really work?” I asked.
“You bet,” Tim answered. “And I have lots of satisfied customers to prove it. One of them, Donna from Medford, Oregon, called me the other day to say she needs more sticks to give out. She bought a dozen in 2018 to give to special people in her life. My typical customer is a little old lady who will call me to say she needs another stick because her first one was eaten by a chipmunk.”
“If meteorologists had weather sticks,” I said, “their forecasts would be more accurate.”
“As long as they can keep the chipmunks away,” said Tim, 63, a husband, father and grandfather who said he just looks out the window to see what it’s doing.
“Animals are pretty good at predicting the weather,” I noted. “I had a dog that knew when it was going to rain. She’d hide under the table because she was afraid of thunder. She should have been a forecaster on TV.”
“Chickens know, too,” Tim said. “They can tell when it’s time to go in. The laying ones are smart. The meat birds are definitely dumber.”
Even though I have been called a birdbrain, I was smart enough to order a weather stick from Tim, who had to cut the conversation short because, he said, “the chickens are calling me.”
A few days later, a bunch of sticks arrived in the mail. I nailed one to a door frame outside, under an eave, as recommended, and told my wife, Sue, that it was going to rain.
“How do you know?” she asked.
“The weather stick is pointing downward,” I told her.
Sure enough, it was soon raining cats, dogs and chickens. When it cleared up and the sun came out, the stick pointed upward.
“Works like a charm,” I said. “I should send one of these sticks to the National Weather Service.”
[Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service and is the author of five books.]