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Weather Man Poems

By George W. Mindling
Official in Charge, Weather Bureau Office
Atlanta, Georgia, March 29, 1939

Thoughts of a Poem Critic

I wish the poems brought to me
Were much more like they ought to be,
With sense and purpose in the lines,
With less of trees, and flowers, and vines,
Without the hackneyed pale moonlight,
But entertaining, truthful, bright,
With cadence suited to the theme
And flow of thought a sparkling stream.

I think if I should ever find
A poet like I have in mind,
Whose vision is clear, whose sense is keen,
Whose verses say just what they mean,
One who presents delightful thoughts
To older folks or little tots,
I'd build for him a fitting shrine
And read his poems, every line.


Introducing the Weather Man

In the paper one Sunday the editor's page
Gave a big lot of space to the Weather Man sage
Where it told how he hit the old nail on the head
With predictions resulting just like he had said.
But it never did mention the failures of late
That were known to the Weather Man date after date
When he called for the clouds and the downpouring rain,
Yet there came not a drop for the unsprouted grain.
So the Weather Man wondered, ''What response can I make?
I must pinch myself hard; am I really awake?
I never deserved this acclaim so profuse,
And so when I am right they just treat it like news.

Soliloquy of the Weather Man

If I should say, "It's going to snow
And folks won't need a fan,"
They'd smile and say, "He does not know;
He's just the Weather Man."
And if I'd say, "It will be fair,"
They'd still be much in doubt;
"The Weather Man," they do declare
"Knows not what he's about."

And if I'd say, "The rain will freeze
And break down all the wires and trees,"
They'd grab my neck before I ran
And choke the pesky Weather Man.
I do my best to let men see
How earnestly I work;
Right down to tenths of one degree
I never dare to shirk.
When my barometer I read
It is no simple cinch;
A fine vernier is what I need
For thousandths of an inch.
I measure rain with equal care;
I gather telegrams from far
Throughout our country everywhere,
But pay no heed to moon and star.
The drift of clouds, also their forms
Throughout all States I learn,
Positions of approaching storms,
Which way they seem to turn,
How much they have increased in size,
How fast they move along.
I wish each one could realize
Why I sometimes am wrong.

No storm comes rolling on a track
Like that of railroad trains;
And yet there is no utter lack
Of order in the course of rains.
My greatest trouble's in their speed;
Sometimes they come too late.
A rigid schedule's what they need,
A bit more steady gait.
Then I could tell just when they'll come,
How long they're going to last,
And I would not appear so dumb
As often in the past.

A Friendly Expression

There is a friendly expression the Weather Man hears,
Wherever he goes it gets into his ears-
    Can't you do any better than this?
Are you the old culprit that brought this cold rain?
You'd better skeedaddle, you give me a pain;
    Can't you do any better than this?
How come you're so stingy with weather that's nice?
Who wants this here freezing, this snow, and this ice?
    Can't you do any better than this?
Why don't you come up on that warm weather dole?
Have you got a fat contract with men that sell coal?
    Can't you do any better than this?
And all through the summer, be it rainy or hot,
The Weather Man hears just the same tommyrot--
    Can't you do any better than this?
From those that are sober, from those that imbibe,
From old men and children the same little gibe-
    Can't you do any better than this?
Nobody has mercy upon his poor soul,
They talk like the weather was in his control--
    Can't you do any better than this?
Can anyone say it and think it is new?
My grand daddy said it in Seventy Two.
    Can't you do any better Than this?
This friendly expression puts me on the rack,
For I never could think of a snappy comeback;
But the next time I hear it I'll ask my own way,
"Now what in the heck do you expect me to say?

A Little Flipflopper

The Weather Man uses a little flipflopper
To measure the rain as it comes through a hopper.
It catches the flow from a small funnel spout,
Holds a certain amount and then dumps it all out.
Just one hundred dumps for one inch of rain,
Dependable always, no dump is in vain;
Each dump is registered on the time sheet,
An electrical record, perfectly neat.
No matter how rapidly rain ever falls,
The little flipflopper just never stalls;
And if no rain comes for week after week,
It never is caught in a lazy streak.
Now I think you'll agree without any question
This little doodad makes a right good suggestion.
A lesson to me for long years it's been teaching:
Its message is this, if you pardon the preaching.
Are you a flipflopper, a good acrobat?
Can you take all that comes without falling flat?
Do you keep yourself fit, are you ready to act
Promptly, correctly, whatever the fact?


The Raymete and the Future

There is hope for improving the weather forecast
Through a striking invention that has been made at last,
Which is taking the place of the aeroplane flights
To determine the state of the air at great heights.
It has taken too long for the planes to come back
And to work up the records produced on their track.
Then, whenever the weather may chance to be bad,
Very little of record from them can be had.
This is much like a sentry asleep at his post
In a critical time when he's needed the most.
At the best the flight method is clumsy and slow,
And the height to be reached is much too high to go.
There is need for reports from much higher lanes
Than we can obtain from the lumbering planes.
So we now have transmitters carried up by balloon
That are furnishing records incredibly soon.
They send radio signals from way up in the air
That can show us how cold and how damp it is there.
The rate of ascension is well enough known
So the height of the outfit can always be shown.
Every fourth of a minute the signals come down
Revealing conditions in the air above town.
The signals show pressure and humidity,
The warmth of the air or its frigidity;
We receive these reports about each hundred feet
Of ascent in the air, repeat and repeat.
In a very short time, for the process is fast,
There's a survey complete for the weather forecast.
At the present time only a few are employed,
For the prices are such as we have to avoid.
MIT and Cal Tech had been trying them out
While the Weather Bureau was still doing without.
But we know of the merits these gadgets possess,
And we soon shall have many our efforts to bless;
For as soon as we buy in large numbers, we know
That the price we shall pay will be reasonably low.
Had we talked of this thirty five years ago,
Not a person would listen one minute, we know.
"Such a thing is impossible," men would have said,
"Just as sure as the blood in your veins is dark red."

Who can say what contraption the future will bring?
There can be not a doubt, some more wonderful thing.
And if anyone ventures the future to scan,
Why indeed should it not be your old Weather Man?
Have you noticed how often in times that are past
We have used new inventions to improve the forecast?
Television is coming, it is not far away;
We'll be using that too in a not distant day.
Photographs will be made by the infra red light
That will show us the clouds both by day and by night.
From an altitude high in the clear stratosphere
Will come pictures of storms raging far if not near
Revealing in detail across many States
The conditions of weather affecting our fates.
There will then be no need for the stale weather maps
With their many blank spaces and wide open gaps
And with no information as the hours elapse.
In the coming perpetual visiontone show
We shall see the full action of storms as they go.
We shall watch them develop on far away seas,
And we'll plot out their courses with much greater ease.

Then a new day will come in electrical lore
When the pictures will register very much more
With the pressure, velocity, humidity,
And also the warmth or frigidity.
Then a day there will be when predictions won't fail,
Though describing the weather in every detail,
Just what minute 'twill rain, even when it will hail.

If astronomers measure the heat of the stars
And can figure the width of canals upon Mars;
If the dark mate of Sirius, as they have said,
Can be four thousand times as heavy as lead;
And if they can predict the mysterious tides,
Even measure the speed the alpha particle strides;
Then why cannot some scientist also find out
Just what brings every change of the weather about?
Say, if they can foretell each eclipse of the moon--
And they never predict one a minute too soon--
Why, oh why, can't the Weather Man also obtain
Some good mention to show just what minute 'twill rain? ???

aint Swithin Day

They have told us a terrible wet spell is due
    If it rains the fifteenth of July;
Forty days will be rainy before it gets through
    With a deluge each day from the sky.

Though it never did happen, they still claim it's true,
    And they stick to their claim till they die;
Every year in July this old claim they renew,
    But they can't show the first reason why.
In Atlanta we never had forty days straight
    Giving more or less rain every day;
So we need not expect such an outlandish fate
    If it rains on the Saint Swithin Day.

The Weather Man's Phone

If you want a sensation you never have known,
Spend a day down with me at the Weather Man's phone.
There are several lines running in there to me,
So if one is in use, there's another one free;
And before the receiver is back in its place,
There's another ring making you red in the face.
Many days you would never be able alone
To answer the calls on the Weather Man's phone;
For the bells often ring two or three at a time--
You would give up your job for the half of a dime.
It will upset your nerves, you will grumble and yell,
As you switch and reswitch to the sound of the bell.
Seven calls in a minute is the pace it may go,
When it drops below freezing and threatens to snow.
People call up and ask you, "How cold is it, friend,
And will this beastly weather ever come to an end?"
Every hour they all ask how much more it's gone down,
Just as though our thermometer's the only one in the town.
Of relief for your throat you have no time to think,
You can not leave your desk long enough for a drink.
"Will you tell me the lowest this morning?" they'll say,
Though the papers all publish it later to-day.
And though thousands keep callin not a one seems aware
Of the troublesome burden that you have to bear.

Other questions are asked that are well justified,
And the right to present them must not be denied.
"Must I turn off the water so the pipes will not freeze?"
"Is it safe for a trip down the coast on the seas?"
"Will the snow block the roads on the way to Louisville?"
"If I drive without chains am I due for a spill?"
"Will it freeze out the oats to the Florida line?"
"Will it clear up to-night and tomorrow be fine?"
"At a quarter past six will it still be daylight?"
"Must I give up the moving I planned for to-night?"
"Can I pour some more concrete before it's too cold?"
"If I butcher my hogs will it still remain cold?"

In the spring and the summer there is little relief,
For the number of calls is beyond all belief.
They will ask about frost, about showers, and heat:
"Must I put on my raincoat when I go out to eat?"
"Will the Fourth of July be good fishing for trout?"
"Will next Sunday be fit to take babies out?"

Now as early as Tuesday they begin saying, "Friend,
Will you tell me the weather this coming week end?"
Whether up in the mountains, on the lakes, or the coast,
They expect you to know: it is what they want most.
And it's strange how they'll ask what the doctors don't know,
For the TB or asthma the best place to go.
There's a very odd crank who will ask you each year,
"When the sun crossed the line, what wind direction here?
For the way the wind blew when the sun crossed the line
Is a tip on next winter, an unfailing sign
That will show whether mild or severe it will be--
I have watched it for years and it's never fooled me."

Now some other fine samples of stupidity
Come along when the talk runs to humidity.
When the big drops of sweat tumble down from your chin,
And there's moisture exuding all over your skin,
They will bring up those hopeless humidity pleas,
When the only thing needed is a fan or a breeze.
Then along in the fall before it turns cold,
If you think it gets better you will need to be told
Of the hunters and bathers by scores upon scores
Who are planning those trips to the forests and shores,
Of the thousands that take in the varsity games,
Alumni and students and all of their dames--
When you answer the questions all of these can propound
You will hang out your tongue like a fox chasing hound,
And you'll get an impression that goes to the bone
If you put in a year at the Weather Man's phone.

On Ground Hog Day

There's a groundhog they say
    That has come out to-day
From his burrow down deep in the earth.
But his eyes are so tender that he will not stay,
He will run back for all he is worth
    If the sun should break through
    For one moment or two
And the poor creature's shadow display.

    If his shadow appears
    He'll be haunted with fears
And run back to his hole in the ground.
For with winter's return he would freeze off his ears
If he foolishly stayed up around.
    When six weeks more of cold
    Are so surely foretold
Why stay out and be subject to jeers?

    If no shadow he sees
    He will feel much at ease,
Knowing winter is over indeed,
Knowing thoroughly well it won't snow and won't freeze,
Knowing now he can frolic and feed.
    So he'll stay out through all
    From now on until fall
Gnawing off little twigs of young trees.

    All of this do you hear
    Very early each year,
Though you see well enough it's absurd
For the groundhog to know on what day to appear
Any more than a toad or a bird;
    Though you know well enough
    It's the silliest stuff
That was ever put into your ear.

    There is no certain date,
    May be early or late
When the sleep of the winter is through.
But whenever he wakens his hunger's so great
He must strike out for something to chew.
    And it often turns out
    That the poor little scout
Has to starve in unmerciful fate.

    Yes, the much flaunted seer
    Gives a pretty bum steer
On how long a cold winter may last.
He has often been found frozen stiff on the ground
Brought to death by a late icy blast
    Which he could not foresee
    Or determine to be
A possible thing he should fear.

Speaking of Spring

They have told us officially spring is here,
    That it came on the equinox day;
But honestly, brother, now isn't it queer
    How people can see it that way?

How can any one thing of assigning a date
    for a tricky, indefinite thing
That is early sometimes and is other times late,
    Like the wavering, treacherous spring?

For the peaches may bloom and the jonquils appear
    And the buds swell up big on the trees
Before close of the second of months in the year,
    And then April kicks back with a freeze.

Now I don't give a rap when the spring did begin:
    Here's the thing I am stirred up about;
How much longer I've got to throw fuel in,
    Then will spring give it up and GET OUT?

Weather Molds the Life of Man

The weather molds the life of man,
Has done so since the world began:
It sends the waters down the rivers,
Makes springtime floods and wintry shivers,

The weather molds the life of man:
It calls for coal or else the fan;
The hottest days bring consternation,
We long for fall in desperation,
While from our brow drips perspiration.

The weather molds the life of man,
Wherever we go, whatever we scan,
With frost in spring that kills the peaches,
With summer heat that leisure teaches
And sends us flocking to the beaches.

Writing for the AMS

Did you ever write a paper
    for the AMS
In a Weather Bureau office
    without great distress
While the sky was dark and gloomy
    with a threat of coming rain
And the phone was always ringing?
    Did each call give you a pain?
Did you start in some clear morning
    thinking, "This will be the day
When there won't be any bother
    and I'll make some real headway;"
Then there came a delegation
    from a school across the town,
Asking every kind of question?
    Did they get your spirits down?

While you searched the heavy volumes
    of the old time Signal Corps
And the books of recent authors
    for their scientific lore,
Did some life insurance agent
    slip in on you by surprise?
Did he spoil the entire morning?
    Did it make your dander rise?

When you found the book you wanted,
    found the place to prove your point,
Did some lawyer come a running,
    throw your thoughts all out of joint?
Did you have to stop your writing,
    follow out the lawyer's clue,
Tabulate the facts he wanted,
    certify that they were true?

When your thoughts were well collected
    and your fingers tapped the keys
Of your trusty ten-inch Royal
    writing paragraphs with ease,
Did some one barge in to see you
    from Associated Press?
Did he take an hour you needed
    for the AMS?


Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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