Nevertheless, Post's rainmaking
schemes were the most elaborate. What
made him special was his unlimited resources,
both creative and fiscal. As one
biographer put it, Post "had the wherewithal
to actively push his beliefs." Between
1911 and 1913 he bombarded the
skies with $50,000 of dynamite.
The rain battles were preceded by a series
of experiments in 1910 involving
kites that carried lighted sticks of dynamite
to the clouds. Each of twenty kites
would make twenty trips, each time
carrying two pounds of dynamite attached
to a five-minute fuse. But exploding kites
proved too dangerous, even for cowboys.
The kites bucked in the wind, their lines
tangling. Worse, the charges had a habit
of discharging prematurely. After a perilous
summer, Post retired the kites.
However, Post did not retire his rainmaking
schemes. Over the winter he
composed a new strategy, and by springtime,
1911, Post introduced the "rain
battle." He explained to his managers in
Post City that it was necessary "to agitate
the air violently from different points on
the rocks and at closely succeeding periods
of time very much in imitation of
cannonading in battle." Post drew his
battle line along the Caprock that lined
the town. At twelve stations along the
line, Post's "soldiers" would discharge several
rounds of dynamite.
Post City crops were suffering from an
excessively dry spring when Post scheduled
a rain battle for June 8, 1911. At
Post's command, 171 rounds totalling 342
pounds of dynamite rocked the prairie.
The blast managed to rattle Post City
windows and frighten a few chickens, but
it produced no rain. Post tried again June
23. This time 250 rounds exploded, and a
small shower followed. A June 30 battle
produced a ten-day toad strangler. Post
described the battle in an article in the
February 27, 1912, Harpers Weekly:
When the firing began, thin Cumulus
clouds appeared and within ten hours rain
began to fall. The last half hour of firing was
conducted in the rain and when the cease firing
order was given, the whole countryside
was being drenched by one of the heaviest
rains of the season.
Post had done it. In a late August letter
to Post City managers, Post wrote that he
was satisfied he was able to produce rain
almost any time he was willing to pay the
price. "Whenever you are two weeks
without rain," he wrote, "I think you had
better get out and shoot up a battle."
By August 1913, Post had orchestrated
twenty-one battles. And by August 1913,
Post City residents had straightened their
wall hangings and steadied their china
cabinets twenty-one times. Thousands of
people from miles around flocked to Post
City to witness the battles, which took
on the atmosphere of a Fourth of July celebration.
As historian Charles Evans
noted in 1965, "no peacetime American
city ever shook to such a barrage."
The overall success of the battles was
not overwhelming, of the twenty-one attempts,
only eight substantial rains resulted.
Nevertheless, the cotton crop
came in year after year, and the town
prospered beneath the thundering blast of
For the summer battles of 1912, the Du
Pont Powder Company donated 12,000
pounds of dynamite. Post purchased an
additional 12,000 pounds. But the 1912
battles were disappointing, usually producing
clouds with little or no rainfall.
Certain of his own techniques, Post
blamed the abysmal results on the dynamite.
"I was put to considerable expense
and much annoyance by trying to use
some worthless dynamite you shipped to
Post City," Post wrote to the president of
The year 1913 proved better for rainmaking,
although strategy changes may
have caused Post City residents to prefer a
drought. After an August 12 battle that
produced little rain, Post decided the key
to more rain lay in the natural moisture of
the morning. The natural moisture of the
early morning, that is. He scheduled an
August 21 battle to begin at 5:30 a.m.
and to continue until 8:20 a.m. A heavy
rain followed, and Post recommended all
future battles begin before 5:00 a.m.
Late sleepers in Post city were spared,
however, as an unusually wet autumn
made further battles unnecessary that
year. Nevertheless, Post ordered a boxcar
of dynamite for the 1914 season.
The dynamite was never used. Post's
health problems resurfaced in March,
1914, and he was rushed to a Rochester,
Minnesota, clinic for an appendectomy.
Depression set in during his long convales
cence. On May 10, 1914, Charles William
Post put a bullet through his head.
Post left quite a legacy. To this day,
Caprock bears scars from rain battles.
Post City, renamed Post after its founder's
death, continues as a farm thriving community
of 5,000. Post's daughter, Marjorie
Merriweather Post, inherited the greater
part of two West Texas counties. But the
rain battles died with Post. Their only
legacy was a 24,000 pound stockpile of
dynamite. Apparently, Post had supplied
more than money for the battles; he had
also supplied enthusiasm. With Post
gone, city managers had little or no faith
in the battles and considered them a
waste of money.
City managers had trouble ridding
themselves of the dynamite. Despite their
efforts, the town still had a few hundred
sticks of its 24,000 pound stockpile when
the United States entered World War I.
Fearful that German agents would try to
destroy Post, managers detonated the entire
supply in April, 1917.
And no rain fell.
Andrea Beebe is a free lance writer
and student of journalism at The University
of Texas, Austin.
Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 04, Number 02, Fall 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45442/. Accessed September 21, 2014.