A SOLI Original Document.
You won't find it anywhere else.
(c) Copyright 1975 R J Hustwit
It was a beautiful, clear summer day in the little town of
Newton, Massachusetts. Phineaus Sloane, smiling and waving
to the occasional passer-by on the street, was driving home
in his two-year old 1965 Lincoln.
Fred Smith stopped washing his own car long enough to
watch his next-door neighbor's Lincoln slowly move up the
driveway and into the garage attached to Sloane's palacial
home. As the garage door closed, Phineaus Sloane caught
sight of his neighbor, now back to washing his car.
"Hi, Fred! Lovely day, isn't it?"
"Hello, Phineaus. Yes, it is a nice day, but it'll
probably rain before it's over."
Phineaus looked at his neighbor intently, making him
slightly uncomfortable. "Why do you think it will rain,
Fred? Whatever made you say that on such a beautiful day?"
Fred smiled, pointing to his car, "Every time I wash the
goddamnned thing, it rains!"
Phineaus' face broke into a smile, too. He said, "Maybe
so, Fred, maybe so. Well, I have work to do. See you later."
Fred watched him go into the house, a slight frown on his
face. "Work? Phineaus Sloane, work? Ha! That'll be the day!"
Fred stood and thought for a moment about Phineaus Sloane.
Nobody really knew just what it was he did for a living, but
he had so much money, and supported so many local charities,
that no one cared to dig too deeply. Mrs. Toomey, the town
gossip had variously reported that Sloane was a brassiere
salesman, an author, even a Nazi war criminal. The fact that
he was much too young didn't seem to make any difference to
As Fred got back to washing his car, he thought of
Phineaus' Lincoln, all shiny and clean. He remembered asking
Phineaus who washed his car for him, and Phineaus telling
him that he did it himself, every week.
"But, I've never seen you washing your car," Fred had
"Well, dammit, you've never seen the Pacific ocean either,
but it's there." And Phineaus had rushed into his house,
Fred had wondered about the temperamental outbreak then,
and now thought of it again as he began putting his car-
washing paraphernalia away. "Queer duck, that Phineaus
Sloane," he thought. Just then his attention was distracted
by an ominous rumble. Fred looked skyward and groaned. The
clouds gathering overhead forecast one of those sudden
thunder and lightning storms for which New England summers
are famous. As he set his load on the floor of the garage,
the skies opened, and, while he sprinted the distance from
his garage to the back door, he thought to himself, "Every
time--every time I wash the goddamned thing, it rains."
Phineaus Sloane was at his desk, reading what looked like
a very old newspaper and every now and then referring to a
map of the central United States, when the storm hit. He
looked out his window in time to see Fred Smith make his
dash. Phineaus, smiling, reached for the antique telephone
on his desk, consulting the old map in front of him.
"I'd like to send a telegraph message," he smiled into the
It was pouring outside.
On August 16, 1897, it had been eight months since any
rain had touched ground in Clinton, Arkansas and things were
desperate. The lake was dry, the crops were dying--it was a
critical situation. The town meeting that night was a little
subdued. Mayor Isaac Ashley didn't really have much to say,
which bothered no one except mayor Isaac Ashley. You see, he
always had something to say--except now. He was coming up
for re-election soon, and he was worried.
Tom Weber, one of the local farmers, stood up, "Maybe we
should hire ourselves a rainmaker! You know, they got one
over in Green's Ferry last month and he made it rain for
"Fifteen minutes!" cried a dozen voices, "What good is
that? What a stupid ideal!"
"Well, it's better'n nothin'," Tom sat down sullenly.
The mayor was just thinking how glad he was that he hadn't
publicized his search for that very rainmaker, Everett
Greenfield. Oh, well, nobody could locate him anyway, he had
disappeared. Isaac Ashley was considering what to do next,
when the telegraph operator rushed into the meeting waving a
sheet of paper and announced,
"Telegraph message for the mayor! Urgent message for the
In Clinton, Arkansas, in 1897, it was very unusual for
someone to receive a personal telegraph message, even the
mayor. It was a status symbol. More than one of the good,
Christian townspeople might have thought that the mayor was
trying to get an early start on impressing people for the
upcoming election, had he not almost fainted when he read
it--not a very mayor-like thing to do.
There was silence in the meeting hall; everyone sensed
that the telegram was important. The mayor cleared his
throat, recovered to enough to say, "I have just received
the following important telegraph message. Quote: 'To the
mayor, Clinton Arkansas,' that's me," he beamed, "'Phineaus
Sloane, Rainmaker Extraordinary, offers the Town of Clinton
guaranteed rain for $500.00 gold. Stop. No gold; no rain.
Stop. No rain; no gold. Stop. Wire answer by five p.m.
tomorrow. Stop. Signed P. Sloane, Newton Massachusetts.'"
Isaac Ashley finished reading and looked up at his
constituency, "Friends, if Mr. Sloane here, is willing to
guarantee his work, what have we got to lose?"
"Think of it," said Joel Geer, "rain--guaranteed rain.
We'll all be saved!"
"Just what does he mean, 'No gold; no rain. No rain; no
gold'?" asked Matilda Hopkins.
"That's his guarantee," Ashley explained, "he's saying
that if we don't pay him, he won't make it rain; and if we
hire him and he can't make it rain, we don't pay him
Tom Weber spoke up, "Five hundred dollars gold is an awful
lot of money, I don't know..."
"Listen," it was Joel Geer, "if he can give us just two
inches of rain..."
"Wait a minute!" A voice from the back of the room
shouted, "What if he just makes it rain for fifteen minutes,
like Green's Ferry?"
"Then we won't pay him," The mayor was definite. "But we
can tell if it's going to rain for just a few minutes, or
not. We'll know. And if he does make it rain--really rain--
why, it'll be the best five hundred dollar investment this
town ever made." The meeting voted overwhelmingly that night
to accept Phineaus Sloane's offer.
It was the best five-hundred dollar investment the town of
Clinton, Arkansas ever made.
Phineaus Sloane stayed in Clinton less than an hour, but
before he left, it was raining cats and dogs. Clouds filled
the sky. It would rain for at least two days, announced the
mayor, whose re-election was now assured. After all, the
telegraph message had been addressed to him. People were
rolling in the muddy streets delirious with joy.
The mayor's prediction was false. It rained in Clinton for
nine straight days--ten inches of beautiful life-giving
water--and nobody seemed to mind the few problems with
Ah, yes. How? How did Phineaus Sloane, Rainmaker Extra-
ordinary, accomplish this wonder? To what heights of science
did he rise? What depths of the supernatural or occult did
he plumb? Read on.
Three days after sending their telegraph, the people of
Clinton, Arkansas, were treated to the arrival of Phineaus
Sloane. He drove into the center of town in his 1965
Lincoln, which was now dirty and caked with dust. After
assuring himself that the promised gold was on hand,
Phineaus Sloane, removing some jugs of water and empty pails
from the trunk, began washing his car.
First the roof, then the hood and trunk, then the sides,
and finally the wheel covers. He worked with slow, practiced
deliberation. As he started work on the hood, one of the
people in the crowd tore his eyes from Sloane long enough to
look skyward. He cried out, pointing at clouds that were
beginning to form overhead. By the time Sloane got to the
wheel covers, it was obviously getting ready to rain. As he
began loading the empty jugs and pails back into the trunk
of his car, the first drop of rain fell from the sky. A
shout went up from the crowd as Phineaus slammed the trunk
shut. By the time he had collected his gold, it was a
As he was driving away, the mayor ran after him, shouting
for him to stop. Phineaus stopped and rolled the window
down, as the mayor's round face filled the opening.
"I've got to know, you've got to tell me, how did you do
it? How did you make it rain? Please, please tell me!" The
mayor had to shout to be heard over the pounding of the
Phineaus Sloane looked at the mayor of Clinton, Arkansas,
smiled, shrugged, and said, "Every time I wash the
goddamnned thing, it rains."
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