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.