IT ISN’T RAINING RAIN, YOU KNOW
An English officer, living in Calcutta recorded an unusual phenomenon on September 20, 1839. As he was walking out of doors, it began to rain but it wasn’t raining just rain; it was raining fish. They were small, just three inches in length, a size you’d throw back but there was no water anywhere nearby to throw them back into. Some fell on hard ground and were killed; others fell on soft grass and were unharmed (of course, they eventually died anyway). Shortly after this event, in a nearby village some 3,000 to 4,000 fish of a different species were found carpeting the ground.
Turns out such showers aren’t really that unusual, and it doesn’t have to be fish. It can rain all sorts of creatures with or without rain rain. According to the folks at Modern Farmer: “Over the years many different animals have reportedly fallen from the sky. Tadpoles over Japan; spiders over Brazil; frogs over Serbia, ancient Egypt and Kansas City; brown worms over Indiana; scarlet worms over Massachusetts; red worms over Sweden; snails over England; a shower of raw meat (thought to be venison or mutton) over Kentucky; blackbirds over Arkansas; eels over Alabama; snakes over Tennessee,” and bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover.
Sometimes the animals survive the fall. Witnesses of raining frogs have described the animals as startled (startled indeed!) and exhibiting normal behavior after the downpour (such as croaking, in both senses of the word).
There have been no reliable reports of an actual cat or dog rainfall — at least without the presence of prodigious amounts of alcohol. The origin of the phrase “raining cats and dogs” remains a mystery of etymology. In 1651, British poet Henry Vaughan referred to a roof that was secure against “dogs and cats rained in shower.” But we have no way of knowing whether he had actually witnessed such a shower. It is curious that he, being a poet, didn’t prefer a phrase such as “frogs and fishes rained in shower” with its superior alliteration.
The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is — Oh My God!
Economists disagree on the major causes of the Panic of 1873. Inflation after the Civil War, speculative investments in railroads, a big trade deficit, property losses from major fires in Boston and Chicago, European economic woes. One economist was rumored to have blamed it all on a great storm of cats and dogs. In any event, on September 20 the New York Stock Exchange closed for the first time in its history and stayed closed for ten days. Panic ensued. Dead cats, dogs, frogs, fishes and investors covered Wall Street, triggering a depression that lasted for another six years.
Going Down: Alice in Donaldland Begins
Alice was growing sleepy, sitting next to her sister who was reading a book. “What’s the use of a book if it can’t get you online?” she muttered to herself. Just as she was beginning to drift off, a large White Rabbit ran by. This was rather remarkable in and of itself but even more so as the Rabbit pulled a watch out of its waist-coat pocket and said “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late. The Queen will tweetstorm me for sure.”
Now wide awake with curiosity, Alice jumped up and chased after the Rabbit, just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit hole. Alice went right down the hole herself, never giving it a thought, and found herself falling. Either the well was very deep or she was falling very slowly, for she had plenty of time to look around. The sides of the hole had become walls, and the walls were covered with pictures. Mostly they were grumpy looking old white men, but among them were many pictures of what seemed to be a Queen. She looked a lot like the grumpy old men except for the royal gown and the royal crown nestled in a strange outcropping of very orange hair. The Queen had big hands and, Alice imagined, a big — Alice didn’t finish the thought for she landed with a thud on the floor of an ornate room. It was an odd room with no windows or doors and above her just the blackness through which she had fallen. Then she spotted a single door that she hadn’t noticed before because it was so tiny, certainly too tiny for her to go through it.
The only furniture in the room was a single table. On the top of the table was a small bottle with a note attached that read: Drink me, if you want to become very small. She took a sip from the bottle and, finding it quite pleasant, finished it off. She waited for something to happen — and waited. Nothing. Finally, she picked up the bottle to see if she could get another drop out of it and saw the other side of the note: I lied. The only way to get small is to keep saying over and over that you are small. It’s like pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, except there are no boots or straps and it’s down rather than up.
Alice sat down in front of the little door and recited “I am small. I am small.” She repeated these words for the longest time until she saw that the little door was getting bigger and bigger. Or was she getting smaller? When the door looked like a normal-sized door she said loudly: “I really am small.”
A sign on the door read: Welcome to Donaldland, Home of Alternate Facts. She opened the door, stepped through and realized that everything on this side was as small as she was, so she felt like her normal size. “I think I’m going to like this place,” she said.
Next Monday: A Dodo in Name Only