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How The World Wags

"Lies" we tell ourselves
  By Dave Kiffer

July 08, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - On the Friday before the Fourth of July, an acquaintance remarked "It doesn't look good for the 4th."

"It never rains on the parade, " I responded smugly.
jpg Dave Kiffer

On Saturday, my wife said "the forecast isn't very hopeful."

"Nine out of 10 times, it clears up in time," I hedged.

On Sunday, my son said "It's never going to stop raining."

"I'm sure there will be plenty of candy in the parade," I changed the subject.

These conversations were pretty typical last week as locals tried to put the best face on a weather pattern that was more October than July. Unfortunately, it did rain during the parade, although not as hard as it did right before and right after (we take our silver linings where we can)

My son and I were watching to parade next to some visitors from Southern California.

"It's a shame it is raining on such a wonderful parade," one of the Californians noted.

"If you can still see the floats then it's not really raining that hard," I grumbled back.

My son was thrilled though. Rain meant fewer kids lining the route and that meantmore candy for him!

All in all, the dampened parade - one of the few that I can remember (it rained when I rode on the back of the KFD hook and ladder once but that was some 40 years ago!) forced us to all ponder the fact that the little adages will tell ourselves about the weather are not always true.

They are handed down like received wisdom from generation to generation in Ketchikan. I guess it makes up for the constant drip-drip-drip Chinese Water torture of our fair Salmon City to be able to smugly say "Well, at least it never rains on the Fourth of July."

No matter how bad the weather may be the first week of July, it almost always (current year excluded), clears up the morning of the Fourth, just in time for the Kiddie Parade. Sure, the day may start off cloudy and threatening, but there is rarely more than a drop or two of liquid sunshine on the main parade and - by the time we all polish off our St. John's pies - the sun is shining through for the booths, the loggers show and the duck race. Occasionally, the clouds return to put a slight damper on the fireworks. But to have them completely cancelled like this year is extremely, extremely, extremely rare.

Naturally, this got me to thinking about what other "lies" we tell ourselves about our weather to make ourselves feel better.

"It never rains on Derby Days."

Granted, it doesn't always rain on Derby Days. But did you notice how this year's stunningly beautiful Derby Days weather had folks marveling over and over ? If it "never rained on Derby Days" why would we have been so impressed this year?

Besides "fish always bite better in the rain."

Sure they do! Well, there have been studies that show that fish don't lurk as deeply on overcast days as they do on hot sunny ones,. But I don't think there has been conclusive proof that they "bite better." Maybe cold and wet days encourage fishermen to add more alcoholic "antifreeze" and that makes it seem like the fish are biting better. Personally, the days I have spent in sport fishing in the rain have been some of the slowest, least productive in my life.

"There's better (deer) hunting in the rain and snow."

Once again, a grain of truth is being stretched. Bad weather tends to send the deer down to the beaches therefore improving access. But as someone who's father tended to like to go hunting in ice storms, well I can tell you there's a big stretch between inclement and bad.

If the weather is really bad, the deer tend to hole up in some pretty impenetrable thickets. And I don't know about you, but my aim was never that good when my teeth were chattering and I was moderately hypothermic.

"The rain is the perfect time to hike because the trees cover you and the bugs don't fly."

Once again, some truth but more not. I don't know if the bugs really don't fly in the rain. But they can't land so well on your arms and neck when the water is pouring off them. As to the tree cover, this is somewhat true. You are better protected than if you were sitting out in an open skiff sport fishing all day (see above). But once again, thickets are called thickets for a reason. If you are trying to traverse them it is similar to walking through foliage made out of glue. So - in order to make something remotely resembling progress - you must walk around the impermeable thickets. Then you get wet.

And finally, "It's never cloudy when you get to the top of Deer Mountain."

For many years, this one always seemed true to me. No matter what the weather or season when I would start a climb, It was always a gorgeous view at the top. I used to say that all my huffing and puffing to get to the top just "blew" all the clouds away.

So I had no worries the first time I took my wife up Deer Mountain eight or nine years ago that she would be treated to one of those "wow, this is unbelievable, I'm so glad I live here experiences."

Sure, it was a bit overcast on the way up and there was no wind so the bugs were particularly voracious. And yes, there had been a little more erosion so the "steps ups" on the trail seemed higher than normal. And certainly, the walk up seemed longer than usual and the land marks that you remember (the bottle refill stream, the Saxman overlook) weren't right around the next corner like you thought. But the view, the view, the view was going to make up for it all.

We got to the old hiker cabin lookout and there was no view.

"Let's head on up to the top," I said. "There'll be a great view."

"But all I see is clouds," she answered.

"It's never cloudy on the top of the peak," I countered.

It was.

"It's like sitting in a room with four white walls," she said.

That of course reminded her why - sometimes - she doesn't like to live here.

"It's June," she said. "There are other places in the country where it is summer now."

"Yes," I replied. "But at least it never rains on the Fourth of July."

And that year, it didn't.


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2005

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