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Paean to Old Lowell, A Rhyming Weatherperson

A LETTER to the editor importunes us to speak of the weathermen as weatherpersons, thus conforming to the great modern obscurity of bisexual gender and keeping everybody happy.

I am glad to oblige.

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We have a weatherperson who appears each evening on one of our Maine television stations, and he/she offers a talent for histrionics that is magnificent to behold. He/she makes a two-degree drop in the temperature sound like the last act of Macbeth, and by the time he/she gets to a prognostication of precipitation, including a fresh breeze, we have a presentation full as good as a 5th-century dramatic contest in Athens, with the 48 members of the chorus seemingly in full cry.

It is encouraging to be thus obliquely informed that culture is still with us and the performing arts are vibrant, but there must be something forever bizarre about paeans to a cold snap and robust oratory about a shift in the wind.

Aristotle did require a worthy and perfect action, possessing magnitude, and I never supposed he was talking about the fog rolling in. We get it every night, right after the sports - you know, you know.

The first weatherperson in my life was an odd one who lived up on the Hardscrabble Road and talked in rhyme. He/she was named Lowell Foss, but everybody called him/her Old Lowell. He farmed, but his/her weather predictions were notable not for their accuracy but for their lyric quality. Were Old Lowell around today, he'd be on the national programs. I believe if you hunt long enough in the dictionary you'll find a word that describes Old Lowell's talent. He didn't rely on premeditation or emotion recolle cted in tranquillity. He just couldn't say anything without putting it in rhyme.

Our townspeople, meeting Old Lowell, had a set and ceremonial greeting: "Good morning, Lowell - I hope I see you well today?"

Then Lowell would respond, sometimes with a full sonnet, but more often with "Excellent well/ As I must tell,/ And I hope you/ Are nicely, too."

Probably Old Lowell did repeat himself now and then, but not often enough to matter. Too bad Old Lowell didn't have a Boswell; his fame depends like that of Sappho on scattered fragments and doddering memories.

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One time some of us boys were going to Goddard Brook to challenge the trout, and we met Old Lowell shuffling along on his way to town. "Tell us a rhyme, Lowell!" said Johnnie Snow.

Old Lowell didn't change his gait, and as he went by he said, "I can't tell rhymes all the times."

But that wasn't so - Old Lowell never said anything that wasn't in rhyme.

As to the weather, Old Lowell had a better batting average than any of our modern meteorological individuals. He didn't have satellite photographs from space, but he had a dog that ate grass and a sinkspout that whistled in the wind, and the wind in the sinkspout was Euterpe tootling her lyric flute.

Old Lowell would say, "Come ten o'clock/ The sky'll lower,/ Before it's three/ We'll get a shower." It was then prudent to get your hay under cover.

One time Old Lowell said, "Warm right now,/ But ere we're older/ You'll see the air/ A good deal colder."

That was on the afternoon of June 24, 1922, and that night water froze in the horse trough in the village square. What a TV segment!

In those days before television, Old Lowell was frequently asked to contribute some verses for presentations at birthday parties and anniversary celebrations. He'd hesitate a second or so and then come up with just what was wanted: "Here's to Ben,/ And here's to Minnie;/ She's in shape/ And he is skinny./ For fifty years/ It's been that way -/ Our best to them/ This happy day!"

To compare natural artistry such as that of Old Lowell to today's TV weatherperson's bombast and bluster is ridiculous.

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