Wednesday, December 2, 2009
See you there!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
If you're interested in other books on the Depression or Dust Bowl you might want to read a few of these:
Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression by Studs Terkel
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and Walker Evans
Little Heathens: Hard Times & High Spirits on an Iowa Farms During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish
Harpsong by Rilla Askew
A Student of Weather by Elizabeth Hay
A complete booklist is available at the Redmond Library.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
A vast majority of the settlers living in the southern portion of the High Plains were immigrants from Europe. George Ehrlich, a German from Russia, was there at the encouragement of the U.S. government. Some were not new to America at all. Bam White was an old cowhand looking for the next big thing after ranching. Ike Osteen was born and raised on the High Plains. Settlers came from different places, but they all had one thing in common. They had staked their families’ futures on their ability to make a living off the semi-arid land of the southern plains.
Rainfall was plentiful for a period of time in the 1920s. Working the land provided a good living for hard working families like the Ehrlichs. Agricultural good fortune turned small towns like Dalhart TX, Guymon OK, and Clayton NM into boomtowns. “Suitcase farmers” from the city brought wealth and optimism to the streets, but little concern for the prairie grassland that was being plowed up at a furious pace. These farmers planted wheat in leased fields in the springtime, returned to high paying jobs in the city, and returned for harvest to collect their profit.
In Dalhart, community booster John McCarty encouraged the practice of suitcase farming to spur growth, but by the early 1930s the price of wheat had plummeted. Worsening economic conditions throughout the nation sent speculators home and forced landowners to plow up even more of their land as they struggled to make ends meet.
By 1932 weather conditions turned grim. The 12 inches of rain that fell in 1932 was only half the minimum amount needed to grow a successful crop. The southern plains were entering a drought cycle. People started calling the brown clouds of dust that would occasionally roll across the plains, “dusters.” Soil conservationist Hugh Bennett warned of impending disaster, but his warnings fell on mostly deaf ears. On April 14, 1935, the disaster Bennett warned of became reality.
The day became forever known as Black Sunday. Families living in the path of the massive black blizzard had no warning. “The day began as smooth and light as the inside of an alabaster bowl,” Timothy Egan writes. Two people with good views of the developing storm were Associated Press reporter, Robert Geiger and his photographer, Harry Eisenhard. Eisenhard’s pictures of the 200 mile-wide, 25,000 foot-high storm became iconic images of the Dust Bowl.
Over the course of the next 24 hours the storm would lash the plains with hurricane force winds and deposit not rain, but millions of tons of dirt into people’s homes. From that day on, the areas hit hardest by the storm became collectively known throughout the country as, “the Dust Bowl.” Lives were destroyed and a way of life for many was ruined.
The next two years would see a great migration. It would be the story told in Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath. Ironically, of the quarter of a million people who trekked through the Dust Bowl region on their way to California, only 16,000 came from the dust bowl. Two thirds of the people who lived on the southern plains in the 1920s still lived there when the Dust Bowl era ended in 1937. The Worst Hard Time is their story.