Friday, May 1, 2009

An American Catastrophe

"While running for judge, Cowen roamed all over Dallam County and saw firsthand how the dirt-packed winds were taking the life out of the place. He drove for days without seeing a single green thing. He saw farmhouses without a chicken or cow. He saw children in rags, their parents too frightened of dust pneumonia to send them to school, huddling in shacks shaped into wavy formations on the prairie, almost indistinguishable from the dunes." (The Worst Hard Time, pg. 177)

"The dust in Kansas was falling in heaps; a team of scientists calculated that during the storms of March and April of 1935, about 4.7 tons of dust per acre fell on western Kansas during each of the blizzards" (The Worst Hard Time, pg. 188)

"How to explain a place where black dirt fell from the sky, where children died from playing outdoors, where rabbits were clubbed to death by adrenaline-primed nesters still wearing their Sunday-school clothes, where grasshoppers descended on weakened fields and ate everything but doorknobs? How to explain a place where hollow-bellied horses chewed on fence posts, where static electricity made it painful to shake another man's hand, where the only thing growing that a human or cow could eat was an unwelcome foreigner, the Russian thistle [tumbleweed]? How to explain fifty thousand or more houses abandoned throughout the Great Plains, never to hear a child's laugh or a woman's song inside their walls? How to explain nine million acres of farmland without a master? America was passing this land by. Its day was done." (The Worst Hard Time, pg 306)

The Worst Hard Time written by Timothy Egan is a powerful record of survivors of the dust bowl of the 1930's. During an already dark and dismal nation-wide depression, the great plains suffered almost a decade of blowing dirt and dust that almost completely wiped out this part of the country. I had heard a little of this catastrophe - one of the worst in American history. In reading The Grapes of Wrath, we learn about people who escaped the disaster. This book is about the people who stubbornly hung on to what was left of their farms and lives and waited it out. One thing I found very interesting about this story is that it reveals the cause of the dust bowl - it wasn't just drought - and also how it was man that actually helped to remedy the problem.

I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this book.

Don't forget to check out this review and other great recommendations at the book blog I contribute to Desperate for a Good Read. It's awesome! And anyone can join!


oodlesofoversons said...

Good to know...I will at it to my list!

Jen said...

Hey, I am actually reading this book RIGHT NOW!!! And I love it, too!

Carolyne said...

That sounds like a fabulous read, as I don't really know a whole lot about that period. I'll have to add it to my "To Read" list! Thanks for posting!

Julie said...

I'll add this one to my list. Seems like my reading options are always feast or famine. I either have a huge stack next to my bed, or I can't find something that I feel is worthy to be next to my bed. I prefer a huge stack. It makes me feel secure.