Right as rain

Al Gustin

If it’s Saturday morning and I’m raking hay, I’m probably listening to the public radio show, “A Way With Words.” It’s described as a program about new words, old sayings, slang, family expressions, word histories and regional dialects. Callers ask the origin of phrases like “a monkey’s uncle” or “doesn’t that take the cake.”

One Saturday morning, a man called asking why people use the phrase “right as rain.” “What could possibly be ‘right’ about rain?” he asked, adding that rain ruins your day and keeps you from doing anything outdoors. One of the co-hosts agreed, admitting that rain can put a damper on your spirits. She said people might say “right as rain,” because rain falls straight down, at a right angle to the ground.

“Right as rain” is not an uncommon phrase. I did an internet search and found the phrase has been around since the late 1800s, and it most often refers to a person’s well-being. If someone is said to be “right as rain,” they are feeling well or healthy again after an illness or injury.

Back to raking hay. The field I was raking this year produced about two-and-a-half big round bales per acre. My diary shows we received more than 10 inches of rain in May and June.

Two years ago, in 2021, my diary recorded about 3.33 inches of rain in those two months. That year, we built an electric fence along one side of that same field so we could graze it. Pastures had dried up and that field was too poor to cut for hay.

That electric fence is still there, a semi-permanent reminder of how dependent we are on rain. People who don’t understand that, who don’t get the phrase, “right as rain,” would seem to be far removed from their agrarian roots.

But those of us with haylands, pastures, crops and gardens know nothing takes the place of a timely soaking rain. Unlike the guy who called the radio show, we find ourselves smiling in agreement when Chuck Suchy sings, “It’s great when it rains.”

Al Gustin is a retired farm broadcaster, active rancher and a member of Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative.