MARTY RUSSELL: I can’t get “It’s Raining Men” out of my head

By Marty Russell

Four and 20 blackbirds falling from the sky. Do you think the weather forecast in central Arkansas on New Year’s Eve called for cloudy with a chance of blackbirds?
What is up with Arkansas lately? You’d think it was Sodom and Gomorrah but, it’s not, it’s Arkansas. Nothing much ever happened in Arkansas until late 2010 when, apparently, it caught the eye of some bored superior being who started visiting all sorts of weird happenings on our neighbor state.
First it was earthquakes, and not just the scattered kind. They were all concentrated in one tiny town named Guy. Since September of last year, Guy, Ark., has had 487 measurable earthquakes, the largest of which registered 4.0 back in October. What’s up with that, Guy?
Then, of course, came the New Year’s Eve tornadoes that killed six people in the state. Arkansas is certainly no stranger to violent weather but tornadoes on Dec. 31? I mean there was snow on the ground the week before.
I was already convinced that Arkansas had been replaced by an alternate universe when the Razorbacks were tapped to play in the Sugar Bowl this year and then came the raining birds and the dead fish. In case you’re just waking up from your New Year’s hangover, thousands of dead blackbirds fell from the sky over Beebe, Ark., the night of New Year’s Eve. Just days before, about 100,000 fish died mysteriously in the Arkansas River.
Speculation continues to gallop over the cause of the two mysterious die-offs. Aliens? Bird flu? The Arkansas Triangle? A toxic spill? Dick Cheney with a shotgun? Nobody seems to know exactly but strange things dropping out of the sky are not unprecedented.
An article in the Sept. 17, 2009 edition of Popular Mechanics lists the magazine’s Top 10 “craziest things to rain down on humanity.” Apparently blackbirds aren’t the only strange precipitation throughout history.
In 2002, a rain of tiny silver fish, all dead, fell on Great Yarmouth in England. Supposedly there was some talk of changing the town’s name to Shut Yarmouth after several surprised residents looked up during the deluge and wound up swallowing fish.
In 1940 in Russia, 16th century coins fell out of the sky one June day. Scientists speculated that a treasure-hunting tornado uncovered a cache of buried coins, sucked them up and dropped them over a small village. They weren’t exactly pennies from heaven either since the coins were rare and valuable. How come that never happens here?
Then, in September of 1969 over Punta Gorda, Fla., the sky rained golf balls the size of, well, golf balls. As with most weird rains, experts blame tornadoes or waterspouts for dipping down, picking up strange things and then dumping them over land.
But at least one strange rain is harder to explain. On two separate nights in 1857 over northern California, it rained sugar crystals which the locals used to make candy.

Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by e-mail at

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