Cecile Page Vargo
the western United States, Canada, and
Alaska, Charles Hatfield continued to build his towers and mix his rain
concoctions. Sometimes he was
successful, sometimes he wasn’t. If
one town condemned him and kicked him out for failure to produce rain,
another was dried up enough they would resort to anything for water.
There seemed to be an abundance of rainmaking jobs to keep Hatfield
busy and in the money, and enough luck to keep his reputation intact.
December 1915, the City of
was under going a severe drought. The
reservoir was just a trickle, and the town could not survive unless some
water fell down from the sky. Charles
& Paul Hatfield would earn $10,000 if they could solve San Diego’s problems. January 1916,
the great evaporating tanks and 24 foot towers were set up near the
reservoir. Nearby farmers
heard explosions and saw flames, as billows of smoke filled the cloudless
sky, and chemical smells permeated the air.
headlines of local papers counted the days and thousands of watchful eyes
looked to the sky. Bookies
began taking bets. On January
5, the raindrops began to fall, bringing a series of storms
that created havoc not only in San Diego, but throughout
Southern California. The Morena reservoir was
successfully filled to the brim, and the Sweetwater and Otay Reservoirs
were overflowing. On January
27, the Lower Otay Dam broke away washing out homes, farms, roads,
bridges, and railroad tracks. Reportedly,
20 people were killed by the waters' fury.
Meanwhile, Hatfield and his brother packed up their rainmaking
equipment and headed to the city for their fat paycheck.
San Diego City Council, was no longer happy with the rainmaker, of course,
after seeing all the devastation that had been created by some 10 billion
gallons of water. They also
claimed he had never signed any rainmaking contract, so they were not
bound to pay Hatfield for his bountiful skills.
When he threatened to sue them if they didn’t pay, the city
agreed to, only if he would assume liability for $3.5 million in flood
damage suits. Hatfield would
only take responsibility for 4 billion gallons of the water that fell on San Diego, and he proceeded to file a lawsuit against the city after all.
Twenty-two years later the suit was ended after two court decisions
ruled that the great flood was not an act of Charles Hatfield, but an act
of God, therefore he had done nothing for the city of San Diego
to pay him for.
spite of his efforts in San Diego, Hatfield’s rainmaking career was not awash.
farmers and ranchers continually hired him to bring water to their parched
banana growers asked him to bring rain to drown out
jungle fires. The Bear
Valley Mutual Water Company wanted help filling Big
Lake. Hatfield even built a
cabin in the great
out by Randsburg, near the base of
Mountain, and built a dam below the cabin so that miners could easily collect the
gold that would wash down when the rains that he created fell.
Of course, as the city of San Diego
had found out, Charles Hatfield could make it rain, but he couldn’t turn
it off. Forty inches of rain
fell in three hours. The dam
broke, the water, the debris and all the gold flooded down Bonanza Gulch.
and the Boulder Dam Act of 1928 created water for a thirsty California, the Great Depression came, and scientists
eventually learned to squeeze water from rain clouds by sprinkling them
with silver iodide crystals. Charles
Hatfield’s career as a rainmaker was drying up.
His wife divorced him and he settled in Eagle Rock, once again
selling sewing machines as he had many long years before.
invited Hatfield to attend the movie premier of The Rainmaker
starring Burt Lancaster. On
January 12th, 1958, the 82 year old Pluviculturist died in
California, taking the secrets of over 500 successful rainmaking events with him to
the grave. In Lake
Morena, a small granite monument memorializes him with a plaque that reads
simply “Hatfield the Rainmaker”.
Coaxer’ Had a Stormy Career In Parched Deserts
May 6, 2001
Rollin in Between the Clouds