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Southwest Saskatchewan has its share of unique individuals and interesting customs, and few were as unique, or as interesting, as Gus Wickstrom, the legendary pig spleen weather prognosticator. Born in 1938, Glen (Gus) would see his father Ernest and the neighbours in the area using the pig spleens from the slaughtered pigs in the fall to predict the upcoming spring weather. For farmers, it was crucial to know what was coming so you could plan properly.
Ernest for his part would learn the process of pig spleen predictions from his father Victor, who taught his son in the 1920s and 30s. Victor was the one who brought the practice with him from Sweden, when he immigrated to Canada in 1899.
The neighbours of the Wickstrom family would travel to the family farm every November to watch Ernest make his predictions about the weather that would be coming in the next year. Gus took a keen interesting in the pig spleen prognostication and in the 1950s and 60s, he would learn how to do it himself from his father. Practicing on pig spleens, he would develop his own techniques and become quite skilled at the process of predicting the weather with the pig spleen. Preferring to use a mature hog, aged four to six years old, he would obtain the pig spleens from a local Hutterite colony.
His abilities with predictions helped Gus to develop quite the following, thanks in no small part to his accuracy. In 2002, he was 90 to 95 per cent correct with his predictions, and in 2003, while off by two weeks for the first three months of predictions, he was spot on for April, May and June.
Soon enough, Gus was becoming a major celebrity for his predictions. At one event in Swift Current, over 100 people came out to see him. In addition, he was featured in many newspapers such as The Globe and Mail, The Calgary Herald, the Lethbridge Herald, and even newspapers in Australia, as well as radio and televisions stations in the United States. The Regina radio station 104.9 The Wolf checked with him every month to get his predictions. He was also featured in The Old Farmers Almanac because his predictions were so good. He had exposure on a number of other television shows, including the immensely popular Daily Show.
In all, he was accurate to the tune of 80 to 90 per cent with his predictions, better than even most weather services, certainly when it comes to long-term forecasting.
Such was his renown, that the iconic Canadian show Corner Gas paid tribute to Gus by naming the publisher/editor/writer of the local newspaper The Howler, Gus Tompkins, as Gus lived in Tompkins.
Gus passed away in 2007
Now, his nephew Jeff Woodward continues the tradition and has seen some very impressive results over the years, as well as extensive media coverage.