The nature of ice and snow, Johannes Kepler, war, water and weather modification -- all as it centers around one tiny village: Margaretville, NY. Harper's ran my essay on snow, rain, the city's reservoir system and how one Cold War weapon called on Kepler and changed my village... The rain was silver. It was meant to stop a drought. It brought flooding, and extended from these hills later to Laos and Vietnam, and it was developed in part by Kurt Vonnegut's brother.
It starts here and you can read more here:
I. To Manhattan—War, Water, and Weather
Weather modification has long been a dream of armies, mud being a weapon of war. Or, at least, a side effect that slows the advance of enemies. Greek historian and biographer Plutarch wrote in his biography of the Roman general Gaius Marius that “extraordinary rains generally follow great battles,” and well over a thousand years later, soldiers in the Civil War believed this as they slogged through the muck and mud of battlefields, attributing the rain that had made the mud to the booms and blasts of battle. One soldier, Captain Thomas Parker, describing the march to the Battle of New Bern, wrote of the “muddiest mud ever invented, being knee-deep and of a black, unctuous, slippery character.”
I was thinking of him as I hiked up a ridgeline in the Catskills in three feet of snow last February. I was headed toward New York City, but I’d never reach it; Manhattan was 107 miles away. I walked up vacant land I owned that bordered hundreds of acres the city had bought to protect its water supply. The snow here would melt and run into a reservoir that fed the city, adding to its water supply. Ever since moving to the Catskills a decade earlier, I’d been thinking about the uses to which the landscape here has been put: Hudson River school paintings and notions of nature in the nineteenth century, and now water to slake a city’s thirst. Every winter I did this hike, slipping onto land owned by New York City. It was also this snow that meant I was less likely to get lost in the woods.