Monday, April 28, 2003

Meat Shower part of history

By Berry Craig
The Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Ky. - The Good Book says manna fell from Heaven for the Israelites. Bath countians got meat from on high, according to Sarah Staton. "That's what people claimed. They called it the 'Meat Shower.' "

Staton is the Bath County bookmobile librarian. Based in Owingsville, the county seat, her route goes by Olympian Springs, an old health resort close to where unidentified flying objects that looked like beef reputedly rained from a cloudless sky in 1876. The Meat Shower lasted about 10 minutes. The mystery is 127 years old.

"Nobody knows for sure what it was," Staton said. "But we haven't had another one."

There are no Meat Shower monuments in Bath County. "But the story is still pretty well known," Staton said.

The Meat Shower made national news, grabbing headlines in the New York Times and Scientific American magazine. The Louisville Courier-Journal claimed the Meat Shower was "one of the most singular and wonderful phenomenon that have ever occurred in the modern world."

Even so, it was a localized shower, the state's largest newspaper reported. "Little strips of flesh" covered territory only "one acre wide and two acres long," the C-J said.

Eons before, the Israelites ate the manna, according to the Bible. Hogs and chickens gobbled the Meat Shower, the C-J said.

Bath County humans weren't sure what to make of the bloody mess. "The people of the neighborhood approached the flesh with a superstitious dread," the Courier-Journal reported, adding that most people wouldn't touch it.

Two men supposedly sampled the "meat" and said it tasted like mutton or venison. At nearby Mount Sterling, a butcher named Frisbie roasted a slice and pronounced it "palatable." But he couldn't identify the meat, the Courier-Journal said.

The Meat Shower struck about 2 p.m. on March 3, 1876. Apparently, there were no casualties. But fields, fences and trees were strewn with bits of reddish "flesh from one inch to two inches wide and from an inch to three inches long and half to three-fourths of an inch in thickness," the Courier-Journal said.

The stuff stayed on the ground for days. "Experts" debated the Meat Shower for months. One scientist claimed it was flying frog spawn blown "from the ponds and swampy areas," the Courier-Journal reported.

Whatever the shower was, Staton is glad the mystery meat was only morsel-size. "I can't imagine getting knocked in the head by a falling country ham," she said.

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