Title: If the Cows are Sitting
- Sign superstition
- Language: English
- Country of Origin: United States
- Informant: John Kurtz Sr.
- Date Collected: May 19, 2019
- John Kurtz is a fifty-five-year-old former business owner and current consultant. He currently lives in Philadelphia, but he was born and raised on a dairy farm in Morgantown, Pennsylvania. His family owned the farm for multiple generations, but it is no longer operational. He worked on the farm, doing chores and helping out from a young age, where he learned about the traditions of farmers and their workers.
- Social Context
- John first encountered this bit of farming folklore when he helped the workers on the farm as a child. As a young child, he helped with the smaller animals, such as the chickens. As he grew older, he began to work on larger projects with the farm workers, mending fences, repairing the barn, and moving bales of hay.
- The workers would often tell tales among themselves while they worked as a form of entertainment, but the most common pieces of folklore were superstitions that either informed about the future or brought good luck to the farm. It is from these workers that John first encountered the collected item of folklore. The workers would observe the behavior of the animals they tended to predict the weather; a habit John picked up on while working on the farm.
- Cultural Context
- The observation of animal behavior to gather information about impending weather is a common farming practice. This practice originated from early American farmers, as they had no reliable way to predict the weather, even though the weather played a significant role in their lives. In order to plan their days, farmers needed some way to predict the weather, and so the practice of observing animals came into being as they seemed to be more in touch with nature than the farmers.
- “If the cows are sitting down, then it means that it is going to rain, because they are trying to save a warm, dry patch in the field for after the rain.”
Jack: “Can you tell me a little about some superstitions that you had on the farm?”
John: “When I was younger, the workers would often point out when the whole herd of cows was sitting down, and they would say that it meant that it was going to rain.”
Jack: “Do you know why that meant it was going to rain?”
John: “Well… the first time that I heard it, I didn’t understand what it meant, so I asked my dad to explain it to me, and he said, ‘If the cows are sitting down, then it means that it is going to rain, because they are trying to save a warm, dry patch in the field for after the rain.’ I’m not sure that he actually believed it, but the workers took the cows’ behavior very seriously.”
Jack: “Ok thanks, were there any other superstitions on the farm.”
John: “Not that I can remember, but if I think of anymore, I will let you know.”
Jack: “Ok, thank you.”
Collector Jack Kurtz (son of informant)