Gambling (on The Weather) At The Races


The rainmaker didn’t care so much about his forfeit, he said, but he was still irate about those reporters who questioned his powers. The curious gathered at Belmont Park the following Monday to watch the great storm, scheduled between 2:30 and 4:30 P.M.

Threatening clouds gathered all that afternoon, but no rain fell. And reporters who went looking for Dr. G.A.I.M. Sykes found that the rainmaker had gathered up his equipment and quietly left town, seventy-five hundred dollars ahead of the game, with two days of Belmont racing remaining. (Both days were clear despite his absence.)

Maybe the alleged scientist was merely a good man laid low by sabotage. In a final column on Sykes, “Exit Rain-Maker,” W. J. Macbeth wrote that reporters, annoyed by the rainmaker’s constant secrecy, lured him away from his shack one afternoon supposedly to answer a phone call from President Widener.

“In his hurry and in a moment of thoughtlessness he forgot to adjust his bars and bolts and locks,” Macbeth explained in the Herald Tribune . “A renegade thereupon stole inside and, draining off the rain water from beyond the seven seas that feeds the storage battery of the Sykes weather control, substituted a pail of Harry M. Stevens’s Rhode Island clam chowder.”