The Great-Grandson of a Rainmaker

(*Sally, this story is theoretically okay for you to read. Don’t blame yourself, blame the DNA I got from this guy*)

My grandfather, Richard Rulon Wright, was a proud man. He had lived through the depression having to drop out of school at a young age to get a job and make money to help support his mom and himself, since he never really knew his father at least on a father/son relationship level. He was lucky enough to say he had sired four boys (yes, I said sired. I never thought I would have a chance to use that word), my dad, and my three uncles. He was alive to see the birth of not only the other 9 grandchildren and the 7 great-grandchildren but also the birth of me. In which that last one would truly be the real blessing.

I was the first grandson and, according to stories from my dad, Grandpa was very happy to finally have a grandson. Knowing the three girls ahead of me I don’t blame him (I am just kidding sister and cousins) (no, I’m not). Also from what I hear, I was very happy to have a grandpa. I’m told I loved for him to hold me. I can only imagine it was the constant outpouring of love that man shared with the world that had me (as well as everyone who ever met him) magnetically attracted to him.

I loved my grandfather and enjoyed seeing him every time I got a chance to visit him in Palm Springs when I got older, or when he would come to Virginia on the rare occasions he and my grandmother would venture eastward. The house they owned in Wrightwood, California always had a distinct old people smell I still enjoy smelling, and will always remind me of my Grandpa. In another book that I am constantly working on, I based the grandfather character on him and his house on that house.

He was a nice man, beyond a nice man with an absolute terrible sense of humor. He would occasionally say something mildly racist and it would make me cringe, but it was something so socially acceptable to his generation he didn’t even think about it. He loved his family, and you could see that in his kind eyes every moment of every day.

Family was so very important to Richard. I personally believe he felt that way because he never really knew his father. I could only imagine a world in which I didn’t know who my dad was. My father is a big reason I am the person I am today, not just the narcissistic sociopathic part, but also the worker I am, the dreamer I am, and the writer I am. Without him pushing me to want to be better I would be working in job I settled for, married to a woman I settled for, living a life I settled for. And while the job of a writer mainly consists of coffee shops and waiting tables knowing that one day soon something will happen that will get me out of waiting tables, it is still a better life than I had for most of, if not all of, my twenties.

I will say much of the speculation on who my Great-Grandfather is has been based in family hypothesis, and lore since my grandfather was born in 1918. Apparently, Great-Grandma Mae Bell was a bit of a party girl, and she had the potential fathers narrowed down to three different suitors, although she would constantly tell Richard that it was one of them in particular.

This would have been Maury Povich’s wet dream for a show. One was a high-ranking businessman, not sure whom he worked for or wimageshat his name was, but he apparently was wealthy. Another was Johnny Powers, who was the owner the Los Angeles Angels at the time.

Me being the huge baseball fan I am would have loved this scenario.  Being able to say, “Yeah, my great-grandfather owned the Angels,” would have been the greatest single sentence I would have ever said in my life, unless one day I get to speak the words, “Yeah, I just bought the Red Sox.” Neither of these sentences will ever be written or spoken again, by the way.

Then candidate number three, the most famous “Rainmaker” in the history of rainmakers, one very infamous Charles Mallory  “Charley” Hatfield. Charley was a sewing machine salesman who decided one day he wanted to be a rainmaker. He bragged about being able to make it rain with his own “condensation enhancer” and was allegedly successful all times but one. He was pretty famous, especially as Rainmaker’s go, and had a bevy of nicknames that spoke of the skills that he possessed in making rain, including “Cloud Coaxer,” “Water Magician,” and the “Wizard of Hope” (thank you Wikipedia).

It’s been close to 100 years since rainmakers were prevalent in our society, and I would bear to guess that is because we have realized as a society that we can’t control the weather. I don’t know if Charley really believed it, or if he was just a wonderful storyteller that could convince people of this fact. Either way he was hired time after time in order to make it rain. The most infamous time coming a few years before the birth of my grandfather when the city of San Diego asked him to help them out in their time of need.

For the “small” fee of $10,000 in the early 1900s, which translates to somewhere around $220,000 today, he would make rain in the beautiful city of San Diego.

He set up his towers, released his condensation enhancers and promised the rain would come, crossing his fingers behind his back, not because he was lying, but because he really wished this would come true.

Then, miraculously, the rain came. The problem was the rain didn’t stop when San Diego had enough water again. The rain just kept coming and coming and coming. By the time it was all over the city didn’t want to pay him due to all the damages and so not to be out done Charley sued San Diego over non-payment for his ability to make it rain. He didn’t win.

A businessman, an owner of a baseball team, and a conman. Maury would have been delighted to have this threesome on television at the same time. Taking audience polls on who they hoped the father was, building up the suspense as paternity tests were carefully taken out of manila envelopes to the surprised gasps and muffled cheers as he would say his famous line, “Johnny, you are NOT the father of this child.” Johnny would jump up in the air in excitement, yell out from pure, unadulterated glee and do a shockingly raunchy dance for the 1900s. Mae Bell would lower her head and cry mildly, because she too wanted it to be Johnny, and that meant it would have to be Charley, because nobody knows the other guy’s name.

I am the great-grandson of the world’s most famous rainmaker. Of course by speculation only.  And while I thought it was so very cool to be a part of this genealogy when I was younger I recall a story my dad once told me about the reclusive and private Charley Hatfield. No, I’m not going to tell it yet, but I do promise that it is coming, instead we are going to talk about my favorite subject for a while…me.

In my recent foray back into school and my attempts to make myself even better than I already am I have had to take a lot of classes about discovering one’s own identity. I have done discussions on my organizational identity, my cultural identity, my philosophical identity, my sexual identity, my personal identity, my communication identity, and my identities identity. I am exceptionally identified out. I love to talk about me and the little leaves in the gorgeous tree that makes me the great person I am. In all honesty, I don’t think I’m tired of writing about me, as we can all tell from my stories, but I’m tired of reading about other people. Who cares? They aren’t me.

Anywho, in all of the time I have taken dissecting who I am and why I am the way I am I always go back to Grandpa. He did things I never could have done with my life. He constantly put himself second. I don’t know what that means, or how to do it, but Grandpa loved with all of his heart so much that he lived second. I am pretty sure he would never have described himself as a narcissist, nor would he describe himself as sociopathic, and definitely he would never say these things in a bragging and proud manner. Why was I so different from this man? Where had our lives been so fractured that we were going to be so terribly different?

He's the spitting image of Richard Wright
He’s the spitting image of Richard Wright

The answer to that lies in embracing the family theory on Charley Hatfield being his father, and my great-grandfather. While I accept it and preach it like it is the gospel of the Wright family, and have shown pictures to family members of Charley that I downloaded from Google and we did the redneck paternity test of comparing eye shapes and how the nose seemed to break in the same way, Grandpa never really did. One of the last times I saw my grandfather he and my sister were having a conversation in which he said, “I am probably the only boy in America that doesn’t know who his father is.” The naivety here is absolutely adorable being the fact this was in the early 2000s. But also evidence he never accepted the idea that Charles Hatfield could possibly be related to him.

I would look at my grandfather and I would see a man who loved his family. A man who was kind to people. A man who was teaching himself Japanese when he was in his 80s. He was determined, a hard worker and he was fueled by a love and a dedication to his family many people only dream of experiencing.

In one of the times we were talking as a family about the legendary story of who the great-grandfather could be, my dad recounted this story to me, which describes why my grandfather was so different and why he lived his life the way that he did.

When my dad was young, he said about six years old or so, my grandfather had taken him and his older brother over to the house of Charley. My dad said it was a nice enough house for the 1950s, but he remembered it being a little run down, and cloaked with a sort of sadness. Of course this is the memory of someone who experienced what happened first hand, and probably not the most reliable judge of what the exterior of the house looked like, nor what emotions it was blanketed in. My grandfather had promised the boys they were going to meet their grandfather on this day, and he marched them right up to the wooden front porch and knocked on the large wooden door.

“Who is it?” yelled the faceless voice from the other side of the door.

“Come on out, Charley,” my grandfather yelled back. “I want you to meet your grandsons.”

“I don’t have any grandsons,” he yelled back, “because I don’t have a son.”

“Come out and meet them,” my grandfather insisted.

“Get out of here,” Charley yelled back.

My grandfather turned and told Don, and Dick they wouldn’t meet him that day and they left and went back home. My dad said he remembered how sad his dad looked when they left. His heard was broken, because his own father didn’t want to meet his sons. I can only imagine it would be equated to one of the greatest rejections anyone would have to deal with. Not only because your own father is rejecting you but also because he has now rejected you in front of your kids and even denied your very existence.

Don, Dick, Mark and Steve never met Charles Hatfield, because he refused to acknowledge their existence. I don’t think they really cared they never met him.

Even when he was provided the opportunity to meet the lineage that would one day be the people to carry on his name and legacy, he denied the opportunity, because he was selfish, arrogant, sociopathic and narcissistic.

I have adopted the idea that Charles Mallory Hatfield is my great-grandfather, and this explains why I act the way I do and feel the way that I do about anyone in this world that is not myself. Amazingly, I too am selfish, arrogant, sociopathic, and narcissistic.

My grandfather never really seemed to care much that he didn’t know who his father truly was and I feel as though that void is what made him into the man I remember. He just wanted to live his life that would have his children and his grandchildren remember him fondly and never speak a bad word about him.

Charles died in 1958 and he took his secret rain making formula with him. I am not sure if there are others out there that could be writing this same story, or even if they would want to. As far as I know he doesn’t have any kids he ever claimed but I’ve never really researched his life all that much. The interest of the story and the mystery had me peaked but I never cared all that much, because like so many other things in my life it doesn’t directly affect me so it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

There are those days though, when I am looking in the mirror, as I am rather prone to do because I find myself to be amazingly attractive, and I wonder how it was possible I ended up more like the man that wasn’t a good person, when I also share the DNA of a man that was the eternal embodiment of good? Then I get lost staring into my eyes and forget what it was I was thinking about.

It’s right there…

As Thoreau said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” I believe that Richard Rulon Wright had lived the life he imagined having. He loved amazingly well. It was a talent he possessed like some people are natural athletes, or how I can find four-leaf clovers. Unlike others he didn’t want to squander his talent and everyday he was a testament to what it was like to be a good person, living a good life. I believe he was this way because he didn’t want to be anything at all like his father. He didn’t want people to be able to relate him to the conman, the flimflam man, the grifter, the swindler, the selfish, the arrogant and my great-grandfather, the “Rainmaker.”

One thought on “The Great-Grandson of a Rainmaker”

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