Monday, February 5, 2018

The Magical Mysterious Farmer's Almanac

My father, Bennie, was a voracious reader. Every night after coming home from work and completing his outdoor chores he would sit down with both the local papers, the Port Clinton News Herald and the Sandusky Register and read them pretty much cover to cover. Dad also had a taste for tabloids like National Enquirer, Weekly World News and Star. About as close as he came to an actual book was the Old Farmer's Almanac.

From as early as I can remember, the distinctive yellow booklet was a fixture in our household. Sometimes it just sat in the pile of other "reference" books on the kitchen counter, but sometimes dad would hang it from a nail in the mudroom where he sharpened his pencils and put on his boots before heading to work every morning. By the time I was 8 or 9, and with entertainment options in rural north-central Ohio somewhat sparse, I decided to have a look for myself.

At that point in my life, I knew the Almanac primarily from the semi-mystical pronouncements dad would make referencing it; "Going to be a cold January, according to the Almanac, but February should warm up a little," or "I guess we'd better stock up on coffee, Almanac says prices are going to double this year."

When I actually got around to pulling the book down off the nail, the appeal for me was a little different. I had always been fascinated by ads; magazine, newspaper, TV, heck, even the junk we got in the mail. The Old Farmer's Almanac is a veritable treasure trove of ads, and not just any ads. Ads for weird and exotic (to an 8-year old Midwesterner) products that you would never see in the Toledo Blade or even Weekly World News; automatic apple peelers, food dehydrators, and various types of oils, lotions and jewelry that helped improve your luck!

I still pick up an Old Farmer's Almanac every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's a wonderfully anachronistic relic in this age of iPhone and 24-hour weather channels. I no longer read it cover-to-cover the way I did as a kid, but I still skim through it on cold, dark winter nights seeking a little bit of old fashioned agrarian insight.

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