I don’t know if anybody was there the first time Sam stretched out his hands and created a rain cloud. I don’t know whether there was a crowd or he was alone, whether it was day or night, whether he knew what he had accomplished or thought it was just a strange coincidence. I don’t even know if it was a rain cloud that he first created.
I came to know Sam later in life, when he had already been riding a wave of public appreciation for almost a decade. The early years of television appearances and big press announcements were behind him, and now he just took delight in his art, letting others handle the demands of the public and the media for him. He was hired for private functions, galas, grand openings, and he always brought something special.
He got attention from all sorts of places when he was first discovered. Production companies, ski resorts, painters, mayors, governments, charities. He turned them all down. He would only work when people wanted to appreciate what he made for itself, not for its results. The requests stopped when one particularly insistent ski resort raised the amount it was willing to pay again and again and again, publicly stating its intentions each time. Sam disappeared for three years after their last request.
When he publicly emerged again three years later, the reception was rapturous. He still had his critics, people who wouldn’t or couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t help in droughts or floods, why he didn’t become involved in the climate change debate. I asked him once myself, and he looked at me with a disappointed expression and said “if you were to paint a landscape and didn’t like the placement of one tree or building would you have it removed? If you were sketching a woman with a lazy eye, would you demand she had it surgically corrected before you continued?”
Whether you agree with him or not, and I have never worked out if I do, that is how he felt.