99¢ for the first month
99¢ for the first month

Raymond knew his “degrees”

By Kesley Colbert
Contributing Writer

Mr. Raymond White talked too slow to be a real meteorologist. But he was all we had growing up back home. He’d come on WHDM and in his unhurried, down home way tell us how hot it was and what we could expect for the afternoon and, if he thought of it, he’d give a forecast for the next day. 

            We never figured he had actually graduated from a weather college or anything. It just seemed to come to him naturally. He kept all of his weather vanes, spinning cups and rain gauges out behind Y. D. Moore’s Service Station and Tire Recapping business. 

            Raymond was serious about his weather reporting. When his humorous ramblings about the heat and the rain reached Nashville and Hee Haw called—he wouldn’t even speak to them! 

            The station was on the big curve across from the First Baptist Church. I was in there a lot growing up for three reasons. One, it was on the way to town. If you walked via Stonewall Street you had to go right past it. Two, my Dad bought several recaps from Mr. Moore over the years. 

But mostly we’d hang around up there because they had a big red upright Coca-Cola vending machine out front. You’d put your nickel in the slot, turn the lever and hear a little grinding and clanking as the hidden gears dropped an ice cold 6 oz. bottle of Coke into the opening in the bottom. They even had a bottle opener on the front with an attachment to catch your cap. 

            I remember the year Cokes went up to 6 cents. Mr. Moore didn’t bother with a new machine, he just screwed a small box on the outside where you could drop the extra penny. We were on the honor system. 

I know Bobby Brewer and Jim Williams always paid the full price. I’m not so sure about Leon or Jim’s little brother. I paid faithfully….er, uh, umm…..if I could find a penny. 

We’d sip our drinks and visit with the customers. Or go around back and watch Mr. Pate or Mr. Harrison recap an old tire. Y. D. was also the mayor. We’d sometimes try to listen in on the town’s official business. 

But I digress here……very much like Raymond used do when he was giving a weather report. 

Bobby declares to this day that Raymond was seldom wrong, “It’s hard to miss on a summer day in West Tennessee when your forecast calls for partly sunny, warm weather, with a chance of clouds and maybe some rain.” 

When it grew extra hot, Raymond declared it to be “hotter than blue blazes.” When the thermometer dropped into the teens, it was “hog killing weather.” If it was pouring down rain, he’d say we were having “an old fashioned gully washer” or a “frog strangler.” 

And he had the most understandable, and plausible, reason if he ever missed bad on a forecast, “The Russians are messing with our weather!” 

I thought of Raymond White this past week as I leaned forward to catch every word from the scholarly meteorologist as tropical storm Sally turned into a hurricane and ripped through the Gulf Coast. A day or so before landfall it was going to hit, by all accounts, somewhere in the vicinity of New Orleans. 

            It was projected as a tropical storm, maybe possibly a Category 1 hurricane, with lots of rain. The weather experts were already interviewing folks in the Crescent City as they purchased gas, bottled water, batteries, filled sandbags……and reminisced about Hurricane Katrina. 

Sally actually blew itself on shore as a Cat 2 hurricane near Pensacola, Florida; some 200 miles and a couple of states east of New Orleans! 

            This slight deviation, or miscalculation, or providential shift, didn’t faze the weather gurus as they hurried to warn the residents of Atlanta and North Georgia of the approaching storm. 

            A short memory apparently is a requirement in this business. 

            And they did get one thing perfectly right. It rained “cats and dogs” at my house for four straight days! I’m telling you, as the water began to rise, I was humming an old Johnny Cash tune, “How High’s the Water, Mama,” By the third day I’d changed to the Statler Brothers, “Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord”. 

            So I guess I should take heart that the weather specialists were right about the rain. And let’s not judge them too harshly for missing the landing spot by a few hundred miles. 

            Raymond might have right about the Russians back in 1958…..