Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

EDITORIAL >> Answered prayers

With rain in the forecast for Monday night, Gov. Huckabee issued a proclamation in the afternoon asking people to pray for rain. Those who received the governor’s encouragement in time got their prayers answered in much of the state.

The weather service is predicting rain again this weekend or the first of next week, which gives Huckabee another window in which to seek divine intervention in the machinations of nature.

The governor’s ecclesiastical strategy is considerably more promising than that which Homer Berry, the celebrated Arkansas rainmaker, used to employ. Berry tried to manipulate nature to his will in summer droughts when there was no forecast of rain. Such was the frequency of his success, or luck, that groups were willing to hire him from time to time.

Berry had read about cloud-seeding, and in the 1960s and ‘70s he began to offer his services. He started a fire in a barrel in the back of his old pickup and, at times and places where his instincts told him it would be advantageous, he dropped crystals of a compound in the barrel and sent fumes into the clouds.

Meteorology was a lot less precise in those days and any good fortune Berry had seemed a miracle. A summer heating shower might bless a parched community soon enough after Berry’s seeding that he could claim the credit. The Arkansas Livestock Show Association hired him to keep rain away from the state fair so that gate receipts would meet the budget. Berry claimed to be able to steer moisture away from a place as well as bring it and, indeed, his record at keeping rain at bay was even better than his record at bringing moisture.

Berry got to be a celebrity and engaged in a bit of self-promotion. The great expectations from too much fanfare produced celebrated failures and Homer Berry became a joke. Thus did a promising commercial enterprise fail, a precursor of the technology bubble maybe.
He could have learned from Mike Huckabee to take low risks.