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Old almanac may be timeless, but its bad forecasts are classic

ACCORDING TO The Old Farmer's Almanac, October temperatures in Oklahoma and Texas will average 66 degrees, one degree below average. Precipitation is estimated (guessed at?) one inch, two inches below average.

It's supposed to be sunny and warm from Oct. 1 through 7, with thunderstorms. From 8 through 13, expect sunny, cool weather. From Oct. 14 through 21, conditions change to sunny and warm. Showers and cooler temperatures prevail from Oct. 22 through 26. The rest of the month will be warmer with showers.

That's not my prediction. That's the Old Farmer's Almanac, a tome which has been predicting the weather since 1792. Anything that's been around that long must be accurate. Well, maybe not.

Consider the August predictions:

Temperatures below normal, averaging 82.5 degrees. Wrong. It was hot as blazes all month with more days topping100-degrees than staying below it.

Two inches of precipitation, which is one inch below average. Wrong. It didn't rain at all, nary a drop. Nada.

Hot and humid early in the month with widespread thunderstorms. Wrong. You gotta have moisture to have humidity. And those thunderstorms certainly were widespread, like spread all the way to New York City.

Possible hurricane in the south toward the end of the month. Wrong again. But there is always the "possibility" of a hurricane in south Texas in hurricane season.

I have concluded, in light of the inconsistency of the OFA forecasts, that we can't count on rain in October. I've also concluded that folks haven't been buying this little book for 208 years to determine when they should take down their storm windows. It must be for the amazing facts.

Such as:

"If you make it to 80, you have a better chance of living to 100 than you had at age 70." Well, duh, at 80 you're 10 years closer. And if you didn't make it past 70 your chances of living to 100 have already declined considerably.

"The United States now has 31 million teenagers." That's a sobering thought, especially considering that a good number of them have cars.

The best time to fish is "during the morning rise - after sunup for a spell (How long is a spell?) and the evening rise - just before sundown and the hour or so after." A better gauge: Call and find out when I'm going and go the day before or the day after.

Or maybe folks buy the OFA for the advertising, which would compete with a lot of those cable infomercials for hype and hyperbole. You can find cures for hair loss, hernias, eye problems and irritable bowel syndrome. Ads promise products will grow tomatoes without water and in more abundance than anyone ever thought possible. You can find corsets, windmills, well drilling machines and saw mills.

And then there are articles on palm reading, baseball, the terrible hurricane that hit Galveston 100 years ago (I wonder if they predicted that one.), and a fascinating treatise on the sex lives of salamanders. I'm not making this up.

I do wonder, however, if it was called the Old Farmer's Almanac in 1792. One would assume that it was the New Farmer's Almanac at the time and probably turned into the Old Farmer's Almanac about 50 years later. Now, perhaps, it should be the Real Old Farmer's Almanac.

Whatever it's called, I am an avid reader, have been for years. In fact, my wife usually gets me a new OFA for Christmas every year. But I don't plant my garden based on the lunar tables listed in every issue. I don't count on its weather predictions to plan my vacations. And I don't order goods from the ads.

I read it for the amusement value. And it's usually good for at least one column.

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