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"Smell that?" I remember being asked as a child. "Rain's a'comin'."

I'd deeply breathe in the country air and smell a rich, earthy scent, even when no rain could be seen across the field. My grandmother would combine this olfactory ability with her talks with "Arthur," who she claimed would also tell her it was about to rain. It took me a little while to understand that "Arthur" was arthritis and that her joints ached when storms approached. I wondered if these weren't just crazy stories she and others regaled so as to see the whites of children's eyes. But I had to admit, this combination put her about even with the local weathermen of the era.

Our Zenith console television brought us KAIT Channel 8 out of Jonesboro and KFVS Channel 12 out of Cape Girardeau, Mo. The weatherman on Channel 12 was Don McNeely, a sweet older gent, who had been giving the nightly news and weather forecast for that station since 1954. He was trusted, revered and hoisted upon the proverbially pedestal. The station parlayed that small-town fame into a great slogan, "Don Said It Would," which brought even more credibility to the man in front of the map. If Don said it would, well then, it would.

Until ...

Now, what I'm about to tell sounds like a fish story told by two old codgers, such that each retelling makes the fish larger than either man plus the boat put together. But this is no fish story. What happened that night was so inexplicable even the fish want no association with it. To this day, some folks in those parts still refer to a baffling weather event as a "McNeely."

One winter's night in the mid-1980s, as my mama and I were getting ready for bed, we heard Don say there was a "chance of flurries" overnight. It was just a "chance," mind you, of nothing more than a few "flurries." Still, I and every child I knew were ever-hopeful for the rare snow day, so I clung to the chance and drifted off to dream of a Southern blizzard.

And I awoke to one.

Our hills and valley looked as though they'd been generously iced with vanilla frosting. Snowflakes fell from the sky as big as fully-opened cotton bolls. Neither my mother nor I was going anywhere for the day -- and, as it turned out, for days to come. By the time all was said and done, 26 inches of flurries fell on our little house!

Mr. McNeely appeared on the news that night and explained how the air shifted in a way he hadn't expected and he publicly apologized. It only made him more revered.

Science now shows that dry rock and soil release an odiferous oil into the air when moisture is near, and medical studies show that a drop in barometric pressure can cause tissues to swell. But whether or not we fully understand, there's nothing more powerful than the childlike faith in things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.

May you still believe in that which you cannot see, this Christmas and always.

NAN Our Town on 12/08/2016

Print Headline: Evidence of unseen

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