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Johnny Appleseed & the Rain!



Some superstitions are based in fact and while they might not be scientifically proven they still leave us pondering their truth.

One such superstition is very dear to my heart and I'll argue the truth of it to anyone who doesn't believe it.

That superstition is that if Girl Scouts sing the grace "Johnny Appleseed" while at camp, it will rain.

I have seen this phenomenon happen more times than I care to think about and have never know an occasion where a group that I was with sang the simple tune and it didn't rain.

The grace originated in the Walt Disney cartoon version of the legend of John Chapman, a pioneer who was a cross between a plant nurseryman, herb doctor, military hero and preacher.

In the 1800's he appeared along the Ohio River, preaching to the frontiersmen and distributing apple seeds and sprouts.

The cartoon version was a character who wore his cooking pot on his head, seed sack around his neck and rags for clothing.

As he walked along he sang the song the Girl Scouts now use as a grace.

"Oh, the Lord is good to me

and so I thank the Lord

For giving me the things I need

The sun, and the rain and the apple tree.

The Lord is good to me."

The Disney version had more verses but this is the magical version that will enevatalably bring rain when sung at camp.

When I took my first Girl Scout outdoor training it was stressed that you never allow the girls to sing this particular song unless you are planning to leave immediately after the meal.

However, at Day Camp one year about 11 years ago, the girls decided to prove that the superstition either was a false belief or based in truth.

If you think they had seen ominous clouds and suspected that a storm was brewing you would be wrong. It hadn't rained in weeks. the area was going through a rather bad drought and there was not a cloud in the sky.

This particular year we were having camp at the old airport in Raven. We had tents for each unit of girls along with a large awning from one of the funeral homes that we used to shade the girls for crafts and badge workshops.

No one had raingear. We didn't need it.

Everyone laughed at lunch time when the girls announced that they would sing Johnny Appleseed for the grace. They would prove to us once and for all just how silly we were being.

Not an hour had passed when the sky suddenly turned black and we had to get the girls into the tents for shelter. We had a "gully washer." Adults were wearing garbage bags to try and stay dry. We were all soaked. There was rain, lightening and thunder.

By the time the storm had passed we were standing in about two inches of water and even more in some places. The ground was so dry that it didn't soak up the water put let it stand. Add to that the runoff from the paved runways and...we looked like a camp of wet rats. We were wet from the tops of our heads to the bottoms of our shoes which squished when we walked. When the sun came back out the humidity was almost unbearable.

Parents began arriving to pick up children saying they had seen the lightening and had heard the thunder but they hadn't had any rain in which ever area they had been in. They couldn't believe the amount of rain that had been dumped on us in so short a period of time.

Now, over the years, I have seen this phenomenon occur again and again but not during a lengthy period without rain...until we had Girl Scout Day Camp at the Tazewell County Fairground last week.

While I was off doing a little work for the paper, the girls sang "Johnny Appleseed" as the grace before lunch.

Now all of you know how long it had been since we had seen any rain. Even after their song there was not a cloud in the sky. Suddenly, as we were sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows for that great Girl Scout tradition, smores, we spotted lightening.

"Nothing to fear," we all said as we enjoyed the gooey satisfaction of roasted marshmallows melting Hershey's chocolate bars smooched between two graham crackers. "There isn't a cloud in the sky and we can still see the stars"

The lighting just got closer and closer.. Then the wind picked up and we started to hear some thunder.





"It won't do anything," I said. "After all, they didn't sing Johnny Appleseed."

That was when my co-director, Peggy, dropped the bomb on me.

"Yes, they did. They sang it at lunch."

I could not believe what I was hearing.

"We didn't think it would hurt and they wanted to sing it. We told them it would rain but..."

We had another downpour. We left the girls in the tents with their leaders at first but when the lighting started to run along the ground we thought better of that and soon had all the girls with their leaders in tow in the picnic shelter with the storm shutters down.

You guessed it. As soon as they were all under sturdy shelter the storm just went away.

Many of the girls and their leaders opted to sleep in the shelter rather than travel back out to the tents through the wet grass. Others went back to finish the night once again under the stars.

I was surprised that only one parent showed up to see if their child was safe. We found out the next day that most people did not know that it had stormed and hadn't received even a sprinkle of rain.

So if you have a field that could use some rain just invite the local Girl Scouts to camp out nearby and ask that they sing "Johnny Appleseed."<©> 1999 Tazewell County Free Press


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