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A flock of superstitions

February 28, 2009 at 08:02 AM

The State Journal-Register

Superstitions tend to develop from less-than-complete information.

“The general root of superstition is that men observe when things hit, and not when they miss.” So said British philosopher Francis Bacon.

In a recent Gallup poll, one in four Americans admitted to being “very, or somewhat” superstitious. Even those who disdain superstition would probably like to find something that has the power to change their luck, or stack the odds in their favor.

Chicago Cubs fans have put themselves through the superstition wringer for more than 100 years. They have yet to find one that works as well in October as it does in June.

The outdoors is full of superstitions, and superstitious people. Many of these beliefs are centered on the weather.

“The first snow comes six weeks after the last thunderstorm in September.”

“Thunder in January means a flood in June.”

“The more black bands on a woolly worm, the harder the winter will be.”

My grandmother believed it was good luck to see a redbird. She raised eight kids during the Great Depression. She needed every good luck charm she could find. If we could have kept him re-supplied, my dad could have lost a pocketknife every 30 minutes, but his lucky buckeye stayed with him for years. The buckeye didn’t have enough luck in it to save even one folding knife.

Many people believe finding a horseshoe brings good luck. The one I found with the mower last summer laid that one to rest. I guess I was lucky to break only one blade.

Hunters who showed up late for their own weddings will be in their tree stands, or duck blinds at exactly the same time, every time out because they believe it tempts fate to vary their routines. Those who get out of sync and arrive early will wait in the truck until it’s time. If they get a late start, they won’t ruffle Lady Luck’s feathers by going to their best spot. They go to Plan B, or don’t go all. Heaven help the person behind the counter if their favorite doughnuts or those little cheese crackers that fit in a shirt pocket are sold out.

Davy Crockett licked his thumb and put it on his front sight before drawing down a “b’ar.” It worked for Davy. It might work for me, even though I don’t know why I’m doing it.

People who fish have more superstitions than Carter has pills. Fishermen and women wear their lucky hats, sit in lucky chairs, or fish with a rabbit’s foot in their pocket. Some believe that throwing back the first fish of the day means you’re throwing your luck away. Other anglers take it to a higher level with their belief that it’s bad luck to talk about your superstitions.

My friend Boyd is the best fisherman I know. He believes it’s bad luck to loan someone a lure that catches a lot of fish. After I snagged his killer lure 20 feet up in a cottonwood tree, his reluctance might have more to do with experience than with superstition.

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