1893 One Hundred Years Ago

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In August the rainmaker Schermerhorn Montgomery was reported to have brought on torrents that washed out ten acres of corn in American Horse County, Kansas. Montgomery had advertised that his specialty was nighttime and Sunday rain, which would not interfere with work schedules. “Farmers,” asked Montgomery’s pamphlet, “why patronize the defective and old-fashioned rain-makers, and have your hired man sitting in the barn half the time? . . . Get your rain while you sleep, and keep your man humping himself.” With each ordered rain, Montgomery continued, “I throw in a wind . . . the same way you get a baked potato when you order a chop.”

When Montgomery called on farmers the morning after a fierce summer storm and explained he had stirred it up himself, no one would pay his dollar fee. A town meeting was called at which he explained his powers: “I saw the country needed rain, and I went out last night while you slept and made it. . . . To-day your fields rejoice.” Only one farmer was willing to believe him, or at least take him at his word. Farmer Jim Butler subsequently brought suit in Montgomery’s native Hankinside, Kansas, for damages to his crops of four hundred dollars.