While passing the fried pickles he asked whether I was familiar with the Native American tale of the TV Upfront and the gathering of sticks. I wasn’t. He proceeded to spin the yarn:
The Confederation of Native American Tribes had lost their rain.
Ponies moved uneasily. Dogs rarely barked. Arrows fell shy of their mark. Crops shrunk. Abodes abandoned. Trading markets suffered serious declines. Less demand. Less flavorful meals. Even their young moved as if driven by the ebb and flow of the wind.
And it was cold. Bare-bones cold.
The Confederation elders sought a new shaman, one who possessed all of the necessary qualifications and attributes to commune with the weather. Instinctively, the council knew that this person must be a speaker of tongues and platforms, agile at smoke and mirroring, skilled in canoeing and application paddling, communicative through fist and drum pounding though adept at peace-piping, and capable of visioning yet articulate in ancestral recall.
A selection made. A weather negotiator found.
The tribal members came to him and asked if the weather would continue to be bone-piercing brittle. He had no idea what to say -- but thinking on his feet, he responded, "Yes, it will continue to be cold."
So the tribe went and started gathering firewood.
Just to be on the safe side, the weather negotiator called the National Weather Service. Just to be on the safe side.
"Yes, indeed it will be a cold winter," the voice on the other end of the phone confirmed.
A few weeks passed and once again the tribal counselors approached the weather negotiator querying whether he thought the cold clime would abate. "It will be a cold winter," he reiterated.
So the tribe went and gathered even more firewood.
Just to be sure, yet again the weather negotiator called the National Weather Service. "Yes, a cold winter indeed," the voice reaffirmed.
More time passed and the tribal counselors petitioned him a third time. And again his response was glacial.
So the tribe went to gather even more firewood.
But the weather negotiator grew anxious, ticks gnawing at his skull. What if the information he provided to the tribal elders was incorrect? He itched.
As the sun rose the following day, he called the National Weather Service and asked for a third time whether or not it would be a cold winter.
The voice on the other end of the phone crowed: "Why, yes, a very, very cold winter."
"But how can you be so sure?" queried the weather negotiator.
"Because the Native Americans are gathering firewood like crazy."