IT'S GONNA be a bone-chiller this winter,...

IT'S GONNA be a bone-chiller this winter, according to the "Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack." Less snow, but c-c-c-cold temps.

Of course, not everything this almanac says comes to pass. Last winter, for instance, the book told us it was going to be "fair and cool" on March 10 and 11. Remember the blizzard on those days? Strike one against William E. O'Toole, who's weather prognosticator for the almanac since 1970.


This season, Mr. O'Toole -- a computer professor at Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg when he's not prognosticating -- predicts 45 inches of snow will fall in the region, 15 percent more than normal. But then, last winter's snowfall registered 65 inches.

This time, he's making his predictions based on sun spots (he used to rely on moon phases), which are magnetic storms on the surface of the sun. "The higher the number, the hotter earth seems to get," he told the Associated Press.


The first Hagerstown almanac was published in 1797. It is the second-oldest such publication, "The Old Farmer's Almanac" of Boston being five years older. This the 197th printing.

Want to know about the rising, setting and eclipses of the sun and moon? Want to read poems? Take in some fishing hints? Memorize famous quotations? Absorb farm and household tips?

Try these on for size: "Adding half a raw apple to the cookie jar for one day will soften cookies."

"Thickening gravy with instant potato flakes instead of flour results in a more nutritious and flavorful sauce."

Makes sense to us.

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AND NOW a word from our governor, William Donald Schaefer -- a big country music aficionado -- on his brief vacation to a town that is viewed by many as a mecca for those who adore country and western tunes:

"Everybody smiles in Branson -- even the reporters," he said of the happy townsmen (and townswomen) in that Missouri community in the Ozarks that has turned itself into a tourist heaven -- if you love country music.


"Everybody was happy," he said.

Mr. Schaefer visited the country music mecca for two days last month before traveling on to the National Governors Association gathering in Tulsa, Okla.

Noted a gubernatorial spokesman back in Annapolis:

"He saw several shows and was very impressed with how friendly all the people were. He really enjoyed himself."

So that's the secret to winning the governor's support. From now on, all those officials and lobbyists trying to curry favor with our governor had better start hummin' a Clint Black tune, or an old Patsy Cline number in Mr. Schaefer's presence. Just to keep him in a good frame of mind, of course.