Each year they predicted the general luck and overall mood of the year by watching the gnu. If the gnu's ears were forward, that meant a successful, joyous year was almost certain to happen. But if his ears were laid back flat against his head, it meant that an unlucky or very unhappy year was sure to come.
One year it was young Mary turn to "survey" the animal and come up with the prediction. It was her first time solo, and in her excitement, she forgot to take the key to the cage. She was late in coming to check on the gnu. Well, she saw the wrong ear position and predicted a bad year, when in fact it was quite good. To explain the error, the local newspaper ran the following headline a year later:
Mary Crist misses an happy gnu's year.