Image by Images by John 'K' via Flickr Creative Commons. Arroyo de la Laguna in the rain

By Stephen Barile from Tulare Lake


To stave off a drought in 1924,

Wheat farmers in the Tulare Lake bottom

Hired Hatfield the Rainmaker man

And paid him a hefty fee,

For he was in demand throughout California.

Sodbusters in the San Joaquin Valley

Employed him for eight consecutive summers.

A “moisture accelerator,”

He liked to refer to himself as,

With over 500 documented successes.

(Attempts to bring rain by sideshow hucksters

Had waned since the advent of fraud laws,

With the exception of rain-dances

And other forms of prayer.)

He promised the city of Los Angeles

18-inches of rain—and delivered

—from his headquarters, Esperanza Stadium in Altadena.

Hatfield was a former salesman

With the New Home Sewing Machine Company,

Yet, he created his own method of producing rain:

A secret substance of 23 chemicals

In large galvanized tanks, with hollow tubes

And cables inserted into liquids

Change the structure of clouds,

By manipulating streams of orgone energy—

The primordial cosmic energy

—that induces rainfall, and forces

Clouds to form and diffuse

Atop a wooden tower he built, where he stood

Releasing the smelly mixture into the air

From the deepest part of the lake.

Many of those standing around watching

Secretly hoped for rain to get out of work.

A rain that may fall instantaneously,

Or take several days to deliver the goods.

Other observers feeling for coins in their pockets

Thought it was going to rain anyway.


Edited by Richard Stone

Stephen Barile is a repeat guest poet, offering us commentaries on the vagaries of human behavior, often with a historical backdrop (though the authenticity of this one lies outside my knowledge). In any case, it makes a good story.


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