The Magic of Squeezing Water Out of the Sky

A Hundred Years Ago, Charles Hatfield Cashed in on America’s Weakness for Quick Fixes—Even if They Seem Too Good to Be True

In the 1956 film The Rainmaker, a slick-talking stranger played by Burt Lancaster shows up in a drought-stricken town. Clad in a black cowboy hat and red neckerchief, he woos a desperate cattle-ranching family into believing he can make it rain.

Lancaster’s character is beefy and full of swagger, just as dramatist N. Richard Nash imagined him when he wrote the play upon which the film was based. But the real-life rainmaker who inspired Nash was quite the opposite.

Charles Mallory Hatfield was trim and partial to pressed suits and trilby hats …

More In: drought

Letting Go of Green Lawns

Lush Yards Once Defined the Southern California Dream, Today Grass Means Fines and Disdain

“Here, it was two stories and a lawn, two stories and a lawn, two stories and a lawn”
– Carolyn See from The Handyman

Sometime during the last-blast furnace heat of …

Technology Can Quench California’s Thirst

To Take on the Drought, We Need to Change the Way We Relate to Water

As their state continues to crawl through an extended period of drought, Californians are increasingly coming to terms with the fact that the water shortage isn’t ending anytime soon—and looking …

Southern California’s Reservoirs Are Fuller Than You Think

It's Hard to Watch Boats Glide Over a 40-Billion-Gallon Lake and Feel Despair

On a recent trip to Wyoming, I was talking to one of the locals about the drought back home in Southern California. She had heard that it was so bad …

Six Ways We Can Keep the World From Drying Up

As Water Disappears, These New Techniques Will Help Us Stave Off Perpetual Drought

Early last year, Californians, already deep in their state’s drought panic, confronted a depressing statistic. Governor Jerry Brown had called for cities and towns to voluntarily cut down on water …

A California Painter Laments the Drying Landscape

As the Drought Rages on, an Artist Struggles to Find Inspiration Among Shriveled Poppies and Ankle-Deep Rivers

As an outdoor landscape and seascape painter, I’m used to seeing places change over the years. I painted a stately cottonwood tree on an Owens Valley country lane in the …