The winter is almost over and spring will be here soon, but one bean remains in Creston resident Joe Mullis’s jar.
For Mullis and others who follow his weather predictions, the bean means there will one more snowfall before winter is over.
“We have one more big snow,” Mullis said. “There might be some flurries, but I have got one big bean left. Springtime’s coming, and I’m ready for it.”
Starting in March, Mullis starts looking at different signs to predict the number of winter snowfalls in Ashe County.
Most notably, everyday in August, Mullis will go to a secret spot at 3:45 a.m., to see how clear the skies are.
“It’s early, but it’s what you have to do,” he said. “Where I go to, I can see certain landmarks in the distance and that determines the weather.”
If there is heavy fog outside, Mullis will put a big bean in the jar, which symbolizes at least four inches of snow. If there is light fog, he will then put a little bean in the jar, which means less than four inches.
If the weather is clear or if it’s raining, it doesn’t count. Mullis uses different marks throughout the land to determine how thick or light the fog is by judging distance.
Between March and August, other signs help Mullis pinpoint how good or bad a winter would be, and this year his prediction was spot on.
“I told a lot of people we would see temperatures below zero more than one time,” he said. “I stressed to them it would be the coldest it has been in several years.”
Mullis said he has been doing this all of his life.
“I learned how to do it when I was young,” he said. “I just learned from the mountain people.”
When the season started, Mullis had seven big beans in his jar and five little beans. Now the one remains.
Mullis recently retired from Parker Tie Co. in West Jefferson, where people would come and ask him about the weather. Since retiring, the interest has not declined.
Mullis said before the most recent snowfall on Friday, March 7, between 12 and 15 people contacted him asking about the weather.
“Apparently people are still interested in it,” he said. “I was surprised. It is good that they remember.”
Other people are trying to learn Mullis’ method of predicting the winters. Mullis said he is coaching and helping people who are interested in the method, which, until recently, he thought was dying out.
“Several other people are trying the same thing,” he said. “They will call and tell me how many beans they have. They want to know if they judged something wrong.”
Mullis is happy about the regenerated interest, as it keeps the Appalachian folklore alive.
“I just appreciate that people are still keeping an interest in it,” he said. “When I first started (predicting the snows), it was almost gone. There’s a good interest in it and people have learned what to look for. That makes me happy.”
Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.