By Marlena Hartz
Tiny snowflakes hadn’t yet begun to fall from the sky Wednesday when Joseph Weldon Crim predicted the region would see slightly above average moisture this spring.
The billowing smoke rising from a bonfire told him so. It blew eastward across the cloudy, morning sky, then trailed westward and disappeared.
Crim, 70, has been predicting spring weather for decades, keeping alive what he says is an old Plains Indian spring ritual.
“The billows in the smoke portrayed there will be some hail (this spring). Some people will get it pretty severe, and it could cause some damage to wheat and cotton crops,” Crim also predicted, his crystal ball, the pathway of the smoke and its consistency.
He learned the rules of the Indian ritual long ago, as a toddler in his father’s arms. “It’s a hand-me-down tradition,” said blue-eyed Crim, a former Lazbuddie, Texas, wheat and cotton farmer.
For an accurate prediction, the fire must be lit at sunrise on March 22, the calendar day calculated by the Plains Indians as the day after the start of spring, Crim said. The direction in which the smoke rises and floats off indicates whether it will be a dry or wet spring, he said. If the smoke from the fire blows southwest, it should be drier than normal, he said. The billowing of the smoke indicates whether or not there will be hail, he said.
His family has predicted the weather with 85 percent accuracy for generations, Crim said. His grandfather mastered the ritual while living among a small tribe of Plains Indian. He ran away from his Dallas home in the 1900s and settled around El Paso, Texas, as a railroad worker, eventually marrying an Indian woman from the tribe, Crim said.
“He met the Indians out on the plains and he befriended them,” Crim said, a turquoise ring on his pinkie finger. “But there are none from that tribe left. They were harassed and chased down.”
Crim continues the ritual, he said, and hopes his son, 44, will do so when he passes away.
“I just enjoy it,” Crim said.
“Everybody talks about the weather. But you can’t do anything about it,” he said.