The playful story I'm looking for must be from the 1940s or 1950s, and may be playing in the late 20th century. A young pilot skillfully seeds clouds over fields growing the area of today's LA suburbs. He uses his knowledge of the area's topography and meteorology, being informed about the changing weather from a ground station by radio.

He is good enough to get a young man on the ground wet who is flirting with his girl, and the girl is amused.

Overall a fun read, not least because of the names of crop-growing places which are today part of the sprawl.

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    Why the close votes? I searched fo about an hour with varying keywords (I didn't know the exact title, to begin with), but there are lots of stories and novels called Rainmaker none of which seemed to match my memory. I only post here as a last resort ;-) -- and I'm among the ones who are super grateful for the support I can get here. As an aside, I'm sending a printout to a young cousin of mine who has joined the U.S. army a few weeks ago. He writes that books are forbidden as "contraband" during basic training, I'll send him story printouts :-). )[Any idea why they forbid books!?] Oct 1 '20 at 8:40
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    I believe the close votes are from people who wrong-headedly think the story isn't science fiction because there are no blasters or Klingons, I guess. Don't let it bother you. Hope your cousin enjoys the story. I enjoyed answering your question, hope you have more like that.
    – user14111
    Oct 1 '20 at 8:51
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    About how I found the story: instead of the evil Google, I used an advanced title search at isfdb.org, looking for English language short fiction from that period with "rain" in the title, and got real lucky. Didn't find John Reese's "Rainmaker" on the web, but I happen to have a tattered copy of Tomorrow, the Stars in my vast accumulation of stuff. I must have had it for 50 years, but I don't believe I ever read that particular story before now.
    – user14111
    Oct 1 '20 at 9:06
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    @user14111 I actually have a print copy of Heinlein's "Tomorrow, the Stars" inherited from my late father-in-law! Now that I knew what to look for I found it, and it may have been where I encountered it.-- Oh, and the search strategy is useful! Oct 1 '20 at 12:10
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    @NKCampbell I don't understand how it's not science fiction. It's a speculative story about the effects of a then-new technology, seen in the story in a more advanced form than it existed at the time it was written. (This seems perfectly obvious to me from the question also, though I suppose if someone didn't know what "seeds clouds" meant they might not realise it.)
    – Nathaniel
    Oct 2 '20 at 11:28

"Rainmaker", a short story by John Reese; originally published in the February 19, 1949 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, available at the Internet Archive; reprinted in the anthology Tomorrow, the Stars edited by Robert A. Heinlein et al.

The story is set in Southern California in the late 1960s. Bill Lawson is a licensed professional rainmaker:

Things had changed a lot since scientists first seeded clouds with pellets of dry ice, making them discharge their moisture in the form of artificial rain, twenty-odd years ago. Bill was a kid of eight when he watched a little cub plane make three passes at a cirro-cumulus formation over a grass fire in the Santa Monica Mountains, just about the time the Japanese surrendered—some time in the middle forties, anyway.

It didn't work, and the fire burned itself out, but the kid of eight knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. A rainmaker. Now, at twenty-eight, William Lawson had held California Precipitation Permit No. 1 for six years, ever since the state started granting them under the Supreme Court decision.

The permit meant he was a skilled airplane pilot. It meant he had two years of college meteorology. It meant he could tell you at any given time what crops were in what growing stages, and where. It meant he could tell you, without looking at the charts, each of the two dozen two-day to five-day periods during a hot, dry California summer when a rain would do a lot of good for everyone and harm to no one. Charts? He had written most of them himself.

After completing his deliveries to the area farmers, he buzzes his girl friend's house, where his rival, the obnoxious and rich Jerry Rudd, is visiting:

"Why did I bother to apologize?" he grumbled to himself. "A man only makes a fool of himself when he does that."

He was over Rosemead Airport, but his own rain was still raining there and it was an excuse for not going in. He crossed Los Angeles and Hollywood and Cahuenga Pass, and gave Sid his last observations. Not that he had to, but he liked to do his share in filling out Sid's maps. The fact that his sweep brought him over Patty Vernier's house was strictly coincidence.

A lot of good stuff had collected over the San Fernando Valley—not heavily, but in patches, thanks to those two disturbing cold barriers he had precipitated. Studio City, where Patty lived, was obscured. On impulse, he slanted down and crossed her house at three hundred feet, both engines running.

At this level, he could see clearly. There was Jerry Rudd's big red convertible, parked familiarly in the driveway. There was Mrs. Vernier, hanging out her washing, and Jerry was helping her. Jerry was very democratic at all times, of course. What fun a millionaire had, helping his inferiors with their chores! Bill gritted his teeth.

He gives Jerry a soaking:

He went back to Van Nuys, turned, and tripped the trigger of his last magazine as he crossed the valley toward Cahuenga Pass, slowly. He went up and stayed there awhile, chuckling and ignoring the frantic buzzing of his phone. Patty had a sense of humor. Patty would see the joke. Patty was on his side again! He felt good. He'd get some sleep and call her later in the day, and they'd laugh together over how it looked from down there.

From up here it looked good. He had hit it hard, and what moisture there was in the formation came down hard and sudden. It cleared up enough, in ten minutes, for him to see plainly through his binoculars.

There was Mrs. Vernier, in person, galloping toward the house with the last of her starched white linens, getting them in, of course, just as the rain stopped. She'd have to starch them again—perhaps even wash them again. He hoped.

There was Jerry Rudd, in sodden white flannels, letting Mrs. Vernier rescue her own wash, while he set a new record getting the top up on his convertible. He was quite a boy at hanging out laundry, but not so good at getting it in. Bill might have some explaining to do to Mrs. Vernier, but so would Jerry. After all, he ordered the precipitation.

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    Apart from my upvote and check mark, I feel compelled to make this completely redundant and deprecated remark expressing my gratitude for your knowledge and the time and effort you spent to disseminate it -- I'm sitting here smiling and happy and think this is how the internet should be :-). In this vein, thank you Joel, too. Your concept of public communication is more productive and sustainable than Mark's. Oct 1 '20 at 8:48
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    I would never deprecate a comment that says something nice about me. Praise me all you want, I can take it! :-)
    – user14111
    Oct 1 '20 at 8:54
  • do i get it right and the story has some sort of mobile phones as well??
    – Gnudiff
    Oct 2 '20 at 10:22
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    @Gnudiff Mobile phones? I don't think so. The story mentions that Bill has a car phone: "He took their calls on his auto telephone en route to the airport." I suppose the telephone in his airplane was something like that. I don't think he would have an "auto telephone" if he had a mobile phone. I believe car phones were available when the story was written. Not sure about airplane telephones.
    – user14111
    Oct 2 '20 at 11:20
  • @Gnudiff You can read the whole story for yourself. The 1949 magazine in which it first appeared is available at the Internet Archive; I added a link to my answer.
    – user14111
    Oct 2 '20 at 12:04

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