Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain danceIf teaching and writing ever play out, Gordon Sisk and yours truly have a fall-back occupation. We can open a weather planning service that’s guaranteed to please the most discriminating customer. Consider: 

In certain outdoor circles, gray-bearded Gordon, who teaches social studies at Karns High School, is known as “Grizzly.” He is a member of, and chief meteorologist for, a group of backpackers called “Team Rainmaker.”

It is a most deserving name. 

All Gordon has to do is lace up his hiking boots and a perfectly cloudless day will turn gray. Soon as he hits the dirt—urban footpath to the Appalachian Trail—a monsoon is certain to follow. This is an ironclad fact, proven through decades of soggy experience. 

I, on the other hand, am Doctor Drought. 

This talent came nearly one year ago with the purchase of a Frogg Toggs rain suit. It has yet to see action. 

This lightweight outfit has accompanied me to the summit of Mount LeConte in the Great Smokies. To the Alps in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. On numerous fishing trips. As long as it remains within easy reach, rain will stay away. Leave it at home, though, and watch out for black clouds. 

Want proof? 

One brilliant day summer day in Innsbruck, Austria, I forgot to stick it into Mary Ann’s backpack. (It’s always best, harrumph, to travel with a strong wife who will shoulder your load as well as hers.) The result was an impromptu downpour, forcing me to pay tourist prices for a gift-shop umbrella.

Later that fall, at Halloween, fierce storms were predicted for trick-or-treaters. I’d already made plans to accompany my son Clay and his kids, Max and Lucy, on candy patrols of their neighborhood that evening. Fearing the worst, I even took waterproof boots along with the Frogg Toggs. 

Custom Weather, Made to OrderNot necessary. 

Truth be told, I did wear the jacket part of the rain suit that brisk evening, but only as a windbreaker atop my shirt. When Max and Lucy retreated to their house to ceremoniously dump the contents of their plastic pumpkins onto the carpet, we were drier than a two-hour sermon. Later that night, long after the Frogg Toggs and I were safely back home, the skies opened up like Bald River Falls. I rest my case. 

Gordon and I may launch our campaign under a banner on the order of “Wet ’n Dry” or “No Precip? No Problem!” 

If your lawn or garden could use a steady, extensive soaking, Gordon’s your man. On the other hand, if your outdoor plans call for a wedding, political rally, barbecue, bar mitzvah or football tailgate and you need clear skies, give me a ring. 

No job is too large or too small, too wet or too dry. Satisfaction guaranteed either way. 

Sam Venable is an author, entertainer, and columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. He may be reached at