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Group Read > The Worst Hard Time - - June 2009




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message 114: by madrano (new)

madrano | 2844 comments We've been near a number of twisters, mainly in South Dakota. They have good basements there, so we felt safe.

Glad you liked the postcard.


message 113: by Alias Reader (last edited Dec 14, 2015 01:57PM) (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 11765 comments Deb, loved the postcard ! It's so cool to get postcards in the mail. You are so thoughtful.

I agree, thank heaven I've never experienced a Twister. I think it's one of the most scary events as there usually is little warning.

Thank you!


message 112: by Alias Reader (last edited Jul 28, 2010 09:34AM) (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 11765 comments madrano wrote: "Oh, those temperatures! And no air-conditioning! How did any chores get done?!
deborah"

-------------------

Yes, 121 degrees ! Yikes. I didn't recall the book mentioning the temps got that high.

When we hit 103 with high humidity for 2 days this year, I could barely function.


message 111: by madrano (new)

madrano | 2844 comments Oh, those temperatures! And no air-conditioning! How did any chores get done?!


deborah


message 110: by Alias Reader (last edited Jul 24, 2010 06:44PM) (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 11765 comments The Writer's Almanac July 24

On this day in 1936, the Dust Bowl heat wave was so intense that Kansas and Nebraska experienced their all-time hottest temperatures, unbroken to this day. In Alton, Kansas, the temperature was 121 degrees, and in Minden, Nebraska, it was 118.

During the summer of 1936, a total of 15 states recorded all-time hottest temperatures that still have not been broken. And not all of the states were in the Dust Bowl region. Earlier in the month, Runyon, New Jersey, was 110, Moorhead, Minnesota, hit 114, and Martinsburg, West Virginia, 112. By early August, Ozark, Arkansas, and Seymour, Texas, had hit 120 degrees.

The term "Dust Bowl" had first been used on April 15, 1935, the day after "Black Sunday," when dust storms were so bad on the Great Plains that the sky was totally black during the day and there were winds up to 60 miles per hour. The term "dust bowl" was coined by Robert Geiger, a reporter and sports fan, and he might have been comparing the bowl-like formation of the Great Plains, ringed by mountains, to the appearance of the arenas for the Rose Bowl or Orange Bowl. He used it offhandedly — two days later, he referred to the same region as "the dust belt." But "dust bowl" stuck.

In The Grapes of Wrath (1939), John Steinbeck wrote: "And then the dispossessed were drawn west — from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Carloads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand. They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless — restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do — to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut — anything, any burden to bear, for food. The kids are hungry. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land."

The Grapes of Wrath by John SteinbeckThe Grapes of Wrath~ John Steinbeck

The Worst Hard Time The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy EganThe Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl~ Timothy Egan


message 109: by OMalleycat (new)

OMalleycat (JanOMalleycat) | 89 comments Lynne said: "I was visiting in Lubbock TX a few years ago over a windy, dusty weekend and was amazed at the amount of fine dirt that came in through seemingly closed windows."

Lynne, my classroom faces the playground. The windows are so tight that they seem sealed, but the fine dust still gets in. As you say, an amazing amount of dust.

My mother, who is 86 and lived in Tulsa most of her life, also doesn't have any vivid impression of the Dust Bowl. I've talked upthread about how the Oklahoma Panhandle in many ways seems completely separate from the rest of Oklahoma. That and the lack of mass, widespread, and instant news from many sources--all of the things we're so used to now--probably meant that a lot of people, especially kids, didn't know much about the news at that time.

Jan O'Cat


Lynne in PA/Lineepinee (Lineepineeaolcom) | 21 comments I finally got this book through an inter-library loan and finished it last week. I was so glad to finish it because of the grit I seemed to feel in my teeth. I was visiting in Lubbock TX a few years ago over a windy, dusty weekend and was amazed at the amount of fine dirt that came in through seemingly closed windows. I can't imagine what it was like for those people having to hang wet sheets at the windows and doorways, and all the other physical horrors..It was of course worse because of the depression.
I asked my Mom 87 what she remembers about it as she lived in PA at the time and was a teenager and she remembers nothing at all about it. I guess being a youngster in a middle-class home 2000 miles away you didn't pay attention to the news.


message 107: by OMalleycat (new)

OMalleycat (JanOMalleycat) | 89 comments Deborah said: "This point was driven home by using excerpts from Hartwell's diary. Valentine's Day after Valentine's Day. It broke ones heart, as i wasn't even sure he felt love in his marriage."

I think that what I'll remember best about The Worst Hard Time is Harwell's diary. That was Egan's great find.

Jan O'Cat



message 106: by madrano (new)

madrano | 2844 comments True, Jan. This point was driven home by using excerpts from Hartwell's diary. Valentine's Day after Valentine's Day. It broke ones heart, as i wasn't even sure he felt love in his marriage.

deborah


message 105: by OMalleycat (new)

OMalleycat (JanOMalleycat) | 89 comments Deborah asked: "What did ya'll think of McCarty, the "Last Man" who left first? Did you blame him? I was thinking his writing and enthusiasm may have engendered offers of employment elsewhere. I felt it was crappy of him but, honestly, part of me understood. "

I understood completely. The thing I was struck with over and over again was that people had no idea that the drought was going to last so long nor that the damage done to the land was permanent. It would be easy to commit to staying if you thought there was going to be an upswing in a couple of years. After it became apparent that it wasn't going away, I could hardly blame anyone for leaving. In fact, it's somewhat easier to understand leaving.

Jan O'Cat


Sherry (sethurner) (sthurner) Yes indeed, That $100 bill, a symbol of hope, ends up helping another man who whom hope had not vanished.


message 103: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 11765 comments deborah
What did ya'll think of McCarty, the "Last Man" who left first? Did you blame him? I was thinking his writing and enthusiasm may have engendered offers of employment elsewhere. I felt it was crappy of him but, honestly, part of me understood. Otoh, this is the image i have of such "boosters", in it until it doesn't work for them personally. I was more moved by Doc Watson & Dick Coon's respective stories. That $100 could have gotten Dick a better end of life.

--------------------
I agree. However, I do understand. He wanted to take a stand but in the end the Dust Bowl won. It did go on for a decade.

I felt the $100 was one of the most touching parts of the book.


message 102: by madrano (new)

madrano | 2844 comments JanOMalleycat wrote: "I thought Egan might be guilty of wanting to share every firsthand account he was able to find, indiscriminately. Instead of presenting the best, or most representative story, of each topic, he shared ALL of them."

You may be right, Jan. I've visited several museums in different parts of the area considered to be the Dust Bowl and there are always exhibits sharing the story & the survivors. Egan may have viewed his book as their final opportunity.

What did ya'll think of McCarty, the "Last Man" who left first? Did you blame him? I was thinking his writing and enthusiasm may have engendered offers of employment elsewhere. I felt it was crappy of him but, honestly, part of me understood. Otoh, this is the image i have of such "boosters", in it until it doesn't work for them personally. I was more moved by Doc Watson & Dick Coon's respective stories. That $100 could have gotten Dick a better end of life.

deborah




message 101: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 11765 comments Note that near the end of the article it mentions one man's fight to stop the US Government from depositing nuclear waste on panhandle land, lest it leak into the aquifer. (This has been my fear for years, regardless where we put the waste.)

--------------------------------------

I heard on the news a few days ago that the "Republicans are introducing a bill to Congress demanding 100 new nuclear reactors in the U.S. within 20 years." No mention of where the waste is going.

Here is one article

http://www.alternet.org/environment/1...



Sherry (sethurner) (sthurner) "We're deluding ourselves if we think that's the only way we are screwing up our land. I'm particularly worried about the aquifer mentioned in the book, the Ogallala, which is also called the High Plains aquifer. First, here's the info on it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogallala_Aq... "

That was a reaction i had too. Part of the message I got was that people have an amazing power to mess things up in the landscape, and that short-term economic concerns cannot be all we think about. The government really encouraged farmers to strip sod from the plains in order to plant wheat, and people were thinking they were going to be patriotic and grow rich. We all know what happened.



message 99: by OMalleycat (new)

OMalleycat (JanOMalleycat) | 89 comments Deborah said: "While i felt parts of the book were redundant, as though Egan wanted to see how many different ways he could repeat the descriptions of booming towns & the dust itself, i liked that he shared human stories. This is what made the book and kept me going. "

I thought Egan might be guilty of wanting to share every firsthand account he was able to find, indiscriminately. Instead of presenting the best, or most representative story, of each topic, he shared ALL of them.

Jan O'Cat


message 98: by kate/Edukate12 (new)

kate/Edukate12 | 183 comments Deborah said: While i felt parts of the book were redundant, as though Egan wanted to see how many different ways he could repeat the descriptions of booming towns & the dust itself, i liked that he shared human stories. This is what made the book and kept me going.

Deborah, these were my feelings about the book too. I kept going for the human stories, and because I was learning things I hadn't known. But where you said the author was redundant, the adjective in my head was relentless. I realize the time period was relentless in its misery, but it wore on me after a while.




message 97: by madrano (new)

madrano | 2844 comments I finished the book last night. The last paragraph, about Ike's life journey brought tears to my eyes. I know lots of people had it tough but that guy went from the Dust Bowl to D-Day! Remarkable.

We're deluding ourselves if we think that's the only way we are screwing up our land. I'm particularly worried about the aquifer mentioned in the book, the Ogallala, which is also called the High Plains aquifer. First, here's the info on it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogallala...
Note that near the end of the article it mentions one man's fight to stop the US Government from depositing nuclear waste on panhandle land, lest it leak into the aquifer. (This has been my fear for years, regardless where we put the waste.)

When we moved to Guymon, we had a pre-move visit. DH took us to Lake Optima. We stood on the concrete boating dock & searched long & hard to find the lake. It was well named, as there was no water to be seen from that point. Here's a wiki article about that expensive endeavor. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optima_Lake

As i neared the end of the book i realized that my upthread description of Guymon is faulty. There is growth on the ground, unlike the dust bowl era. Sagebrush, thistle & such, as well as mesquite trees and other arid growing plants. It's not often green, and this where my "brown" memory arises. There are some trees, usually poplar or cottonwood scattered about, as well. And in towns there is green, energetically watered from that aquifer!

While i felt parts of the book were redundant, as though Egan wanted to see how many different ways he could repeat the descriptions of booming towns & the dust itself, i liked that he shared human stories. This is what made the book and kept me going.

deborah


message 96: by madrano (new)

madrano | 2844 comments Alias, thanks for the information. On YouTube there is an older man discussing the film, so i'm now guessing that is from the DVD. They don't explain who he is & didn't really add much, but i found it odd there was no name attached.

I also watched a bit of The River & thought the images were striking in black & white. I also liked the b&w images in Plow, but wondered how they'd look in color.

I haven't finished the book, so didn't know Bam was shunned for being in the film. I can't imagine why, although i did find it amusing that while he claimed to the cowpoke life his immortality will be with a plow.

deborah


message 95: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 11765 comments deborah:
Tonight i read the chapter which mentions this film, so checked the 'net once i found that the local libraries, and dad's, do not have a copy. This website states they are only sharing the opening segment but i watched it all & the last frame declares, "THE END", so i don't know if it's the entire film or not. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~1930s/FILM/l...

It is enough to see Bam White's "performance", at least
================================

The film was only 27 min. Deb my liner notes that "a didactic epilogue that was dropped shortly after the film's first release. It extols the Soil Conservation services, the CCC, Resettlement admin...etc" It was 3:28 min. Maybe that is why the clip you are seeing says it is not the full version. "The End" is what I have on the DVD, too. I don't have the original ending that was dropped shortly after it opened.

The film is in b&w, so it is less dramatic then if it were in color, but there was no color film at that time. It sort of looks like an amature video. There is a little voice over, but it is done in overly dramatic sentences. (the DVD liner notes call it "free verse poetry). I'm so dense, I just thought that was the film style of the time. :)

Here is how the film opens.

High winds and sun
A country without rivers
And with little rain
Settler: plow at your peril !
Two hundred miles from water
Two hundred miles from town
But the land is new
Many were disappointed
The rains failed
And the sun baked the light soil.


It seems very dated, as you would expect. My opinion is it's a good thing the govt. doesn't make films. :) The booklet that came with the DVD notes that it "broke new ground in seamlessly marrying pictorial imagery, symphonic music, and poetic free verse, all realized with supreme artistry.

On the plus side you are seeing actual footage of the DB, not a Hollywood recreation.

As for Bam, it is hardly anything controversial. I guess he was shunned for just being in the film. But he isn't doing anything out of the ordinary.

The critics called the film New Deal propaganda. But I don't recall anything in the film that wasn't accurate. In fact, at one point, the film makes the point that the farmers and homesteaders were pushed in part by govt. to plant more and more wheat for the war effort.

The film was voted best documentary at the 1938 Venice Film Festival.

My DVD also came with The River (31 min.) It was nominated for a Pulitzer prize. I'll try to watch that today.

"As The Plow had traced the history of the Great Plains and shown how abuse of the land led to the dust bowl, The River traces the history of the Mississippi River and argues the necessity of a system of dams to harness water. Lorentz's script links the Depression to misuse of the great river and over cultivation and urbanization of its valley, leaving farmland unfit for farming and the "ill housed,, ill clothed, ill fed Americans who condition Roosevelt famously decried. "

The DVD also comes with a few interviews.


message 94: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 11765 comments Thanks, Deb for the Laura Ingalls link. I forgot I wanted to look her up. Wow ! a spy.



message 93: by madrano (last edited Jun 15, 2009 10:39PM) (new)

madrano | 2844 comments Ok, i just had to locate info on Laura Ingalls, the aviator mentioned in the chapter "Black Sunday". Here's what i found-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_In...

Better photo here-- http://www.nasm.si.edu/research/aero/...

deb


message 92: by madrano (last edited Jun 15, 2009 10:39PM) (new)

madrano | 2844 comments Alias Reader wrote: "The movie mentioned in this chapter, The Plow that Broke the Plains is available on DVD. My library actually has it, so I requested it."

Tonight i read the chapter which mentions this film, so checked the 'net once i found that the local libraries, and dad's, do not have a copy. This website states they are only sharing the opening segment but i watched it all & the last frame declares, "THE END", so i don't know if it's the entire film or not. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~1930s/FIL...


It is enough to see Bam White's "performance", at least! It's less than half-way through what's available at this web site. I didn't see him looking this way, other than the mustache, that is. ;-) ANYway, i wanted to share with others who cannot find a copy of the film.

Well, i searched a bit more & found a larger photo version, 25 minutes long-- http://video.google.com/videoplay?doc...

Alias, i hope you'll let us know what you think of the film. I think it'll be interesting to see the images, if nothing else. Enjoy!

deborah



message 91: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 11765 comments The DVD I requested from my library, The Plow That Broke The Plains, is in. I'll try to pick it up tomorrow. It's the one that is mentioned in the book.

I'll let you know how it is.


message 90: by madrano (new)

madrano | 2844 comments madrano wrote: "the optimism that this is there's & the ancestors would be proud they've come so far, that helped them stay.

"there's"??? Get a grip, deb! Sorry 'bout that, folks.

deborah




message 89: by madrano (new)

madrano | 2844 comments Re. exploding gas tanks. For this bit of information i am grateful to the internet. In the first year of being actively online i got an email from a newly discovered relative (thank you, AOL's geneaology boards), which explained about such possibilities. Who knew? All those years of pumping gas & we could have been incinerated. Yikes!

I used to hesitate to kiss my uncle when we were kids because my Oklahoma grandparent's home in winter was charged with static electricity. They'd have the electric heater on, the fireplace roaring and 20 people playing bridge (while smoking, i must add, although i doubt this had an impact). Then my uncle would come in from the cold, blowing outdoors & want a kiss from me first, because i ran to him first. Ouch! Static Kiss!

deborah, thanking Jan for her public service announcement


message 88: by OMalleycat (new)

OMalleycat (JanOMalleycat) | 89 comments Kate described: "The avatar is Cincinnati chili. : ) It is a classic in this area with two main chains that serve similar versions. Yup, it is spaghetti, chili and tons of cheese. . .You can order the basic 3-way version which is exactly what I descrbied, or you can order a 4-way or 5-way. One of those versions includes beans. Cincinnati chili is to this area what Buffalo wings are to Buffalo

Kate, Prairie Home Companion had a piece featuring Cincinnati Chili this week. Guy Noir wants to order 2-way, just chili and beans and the waitress tells him there's no such thing, only 3, 4, or 5-way. "Wet or dry?" I thought of you while listening!

Jan O'Cat


message 87: by madrano (new)

madrano | 2844 comments JanOMalleycat wrote: The Dust Bowl was a bigger tragedy than most of the boom-and-bust cycles, but on the other hand it started with a greater boom. So many people got rich. Even the Bam Whites and Doc Dawsons who weren't necessarily looking to get rich at least had the brief illusion that they could establish a secure home.

I am only half finished with the book. As mentioned in my last post too much of this is old news, so it's not as interesting as it normally would be. I intend to finish it, however, thanks to the stories of individual families, as poorly told as i think they are.

The above quote from Jan sums up my thought. Reading about the movers of Dalhart & other places reminded me of Sinclair Lewis's stories of boosterism. Those people & their desire to be Big People in developing towns helped keep others together during the first few bad years. That they hung on year after year astounds. Isn't it one of those things we love about people?

ANYway, i echo Jan's comments. For many of these folks, as Egan points out, this seemed as though it was the last chance for free land, there to produce miracles for the true believer. Most of those newcomers never owned their own land, so to give it up, particularly after the work invested, would go counter to everything they believed.

Forgive me for my own story here. Last Tuesday, i kid you not, i was commenting to my sister how lucky we were to live on a lake and in such a nice setting & home. Our grandparents could not have imagined such a luxury. Heck, they struggled to keep their one home. Even our parents never entertained retiring to a lake setting. So, we are lucky & i considered, as speaking to my sister, that we are part of the progression of our family.

Come Wednesday & the storms. Given the flood we just experienced, i'm here to tell you that if i thought this was going to be a yearly event, i'd leave. Even knowing that the previous owners had such a flood 3 years ago (& thought they'd solved it with French drains), i need to believe such a storm is going to be rare, maybe every other year. I suspect it is this optimism which carried those Dust Bowlers year after year. Surely we've experienced the worst. How could nature repeat itself? Why would it? Won't it end? No, we'll buy some seeds for crop & for our personal garden. We'll rearrange the furniture & rugs so the water won't get to them. We'll carry on because nothing worse will happen.

It would just be too much to think in the long term. I honestly doubt many of those people, had they known that year after year the same thing would repeat (let along get worse!), would have stayed. It was the not knowing, the optimism that this is there's & the ancestors would be proud they've come so far, that helped them stay.

I don't at all mean to equate the small problem we've just encountered with the grinding events those of the Dust Bowl experienced. But it has given me an appropriate taste of why & how people would stay. I guess this book is why Carl Sandburg has been on my mind so much recently. "The people yes"!

http://glenavalon.com/peopleyes.html

deborah



Sherry (sethurner) (sthurner) deborah, I found your comments on living in OK interesting, especially your "sanity drive." Seems to me that people who live in relatively isolated areas need to get out occasionally. When I was little on the farm my mother would do that, go to Elkhorn for no good reason, drive around the back roads, just to see some fresh scenery.

I also knew lots of the facts about the Dust Bowl from teaching Grapes of Wrath, but the personal stories really brought the book to life. I kept going back and forth between thinking people who stayed were fools, and admiring them for their tenacity.


message 85: by madrano (last edited Jun 14, 2009 06:21AM) (new)

madrano | 2844 comments JanOMalleycat wrote: "I've always heard it's a long and tedious drive to the Panhandle. Somewhere up there are salt flats from ancient seas and mesaland. Sounds like it could be desolate. Deborah, when you lived in Guymon did you feel a part of Oklahoma? I have some distant step-relatives who live there and they always seemed more oriented to Amarillo than Oklahoma."

We moved to Oklahoma in the mid-80s because we wanted to live in the state again & be closer to kinfolk. As it happens two of the people i most wanted to be near died the preceeding year but we were committed in our search by that time. My point being that i did feel part of Oklahoma but i now think this was only due to our desire to live there.

As you indicated, Jan, Amarillo was the "go-to-town" place from Guymon. We went there more than any other city in OK, even though we laughed when calling it the Big City, as it was pretty rinky-dink. Heck, i went to Denver more than i went to OKC when we lived there! And you may imagine how ridiculous it was to learn that many people living in the panhandle considered Guymon the Big City! LOL And while i'm laughing in memories, when we lived in the Panhandle, Cimarron County had only one traffic light, as i believe Egan mentioned in his book. Is that progress? Btw, i believe he is mistaken about that fact. It was my understanding when we lived there that Cimarron County had no traffic lights until not long before we moved there.

The landscape is still pretty desolate. I was in the habit of squandering gasoline by driving in a sort of huge rectangle at least once a week. It was my sanity drive, frankly. Reaching into memories of those ventures i remember lots of ranching land, meaning no crops but some (not huge numbers) of livestock. As usual, you could tell water was nearby thanks to the brush & few trees which grew along the creek. Other than that it was unrelenting brown. Even in summer i don't remember green but, honestly, this is not a faithful recall, as i had less driving time in summer. While there are hills, they were more like molehills. You could clearly see towns 10 miles away. And tumbleweeds were featured.

The salt flats aren't actually in the panhandle but west of Alva, where i was born. It's still a mighty desolate sight, though, and a fine indicator that dryness abounds. The two years we lived there were rather dry but usually there are many huge snows & plentiful thunderstorms with winds whipping through almost constantly.

While we lived there the 50th anniversary of some aspects of the Dust Bowl were recalled in the local paper. One Sunday there was a big supplement with photos and personal stories. For this reason much of what i'm learning in the book, statistically is not new but the personal stories are. ("There are a million stories in the Naked City...") I thought i kept the supplement but haven't run across it in a long time, so guess not.

deborah
Oh! I wanted to add that folks make their own landmarks. Along the 100th meridian a tradition has started of abandoning dead cars to mark the imaginary line. It may be one person who has done this, i don't know. However, there are cars reaching back to the 30s in the line, which was a fun stop for photographing. And please remember the landmark known as the "Cadillac Ranch", where those cars are half-buried in dirt, another human-made landmark. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadillac... Ah, humanity! :-)


Sherry (sethurner) (sthurner) I've been working outside, reading far too slowly, but I hope to finish tonight. I'm fascinated by the way Egan goes back and forth between the larger picture of how the areas affected were settled, and the political climate, and the stories of individual people. Some of his descriptions are simply staggering - like that of Black Sunday.


message 83: by kate/Edukate12 (new)

kate/Edukate12 | 183 comments Thanks for the explanation of touching cars/explosions Jan. I was completely unaware of this! Of course I tend to live in my happy little world, and I'm probably unaware of many things.

kate


message 82: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 13, 2009 07:18AM) (new)

OMalleycat (JanOMalleycat) | 89 comments Kate said: "I've never heard this, but then maybe I'm a terrible danger when pumping gas in the winter. Are there signs at the gas station reminding you to do this? Wouldn't just touching the door handle as you get out be enough car contact? "

Kate, I meant to answer this days ago and kept forgetting. I've been worried that you'd explode a gas tank in the intervening days!

Part of the idea is touching the car after you've already gotten out because dragging your bottom across the seat to get out creates more friction, therefore more static build-up. I suppose that those of us with enormous bottoms are at the greatest risk. :-)

No, there aren't signs at the gas station to remind, but having seen a couple of local stories of gas tank explosions is reminder enough for me. A couple of winters ago I think we had a particularly cold and dry winter and there were a couple of incidents. I had never heard of it previously but since then I touch the car door or something as I get out and, sure enough, most of the time I get a small .

I also remember that people who put the gas nozzle in the tank and then get back in their cars while the tank is filling are more at risk. I do this all the time. The wind here (to get a little back on topic--Egan mentioned Oklahoma's wind didn't he?) is so bad that people climb back in their cars to get out of it, but don't necessarily close the car door. So they're dragging their bottoms twice, but don't touch the door or the car body (like to open the little door to the tank) and the nozzle is the first thing they touch when the tank is full. BOOM!

Jan O'Cat, weird weather phenomena that people in other places never think about


message 81: by kate/Edukate12 (new)

kate/Edukate12 | 183 comments Alias said: It helped to reinforce my personal preference of not giving up on non fiction books if they don't grab me right away. It was a good example of a book that I felt improved as it went on. So I was happy I didn't give up on it.

I really struggled to get into this book. Since I never give up on a book, I knew I was going to hang in there, but I thought it might be one I ended up skimming. To be honest, I am skimming the end a bit, but I truly enjoyed the human interest stories and I got caught up in the lives of some of the people. I'm glad I read it [I'll finish tonight} and I'm even more grateful that BNC has pushed me into non-fiction. It has certainly broadened my reading horizons.



message 80: by kate/Edukate12 (last edited Jun 11, 2009 02:35PM) (new)

kate/Edukate12 | 183 comments Jan said: Is this a problem that's peculiar to the Southwest? It's something that I would have assumed is the same everywhere. In the winter we are warned that when filling our cars with gas, we need to touch the car somewhere upon getting out, before touching the gas pump. Static builds up from the friction while driving and discharging by touching the gas pump has caused explosions.

I've never heard this, but then maybe I'm a terrible danger when pumping gas in the winter. Are there signs at the gas station reminding you to do this? Wouldn't just touching the door handle as you get out be enough car contact?

Now that you mention it, I do remember seeing chains dragging behind the big rigs because we liked to see the sparks. I haven't seen that in years though.





message 79: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 11765 comments I ended up with 3 pages of notes from this book ! I think this book is a good example of 2 things.

One, I read a book that I probably never would have read on my own. So it expanded my knowledge horizons.

Two, It helped to reinforce my personal preference of not giving up on non fiction books if they don't grab me right away. It was a good example of a book that I felt improved as it went on. So I was happy I didn't give up on it.


message 78: by OMalleycat (new)

OMalleycat (JanOMalleycat) | 89 comments Kate said: "I can imagine the hope and optimism associated with seeds for the first year or two. After that it is hard for me to imagine sticking with it. I'm one who always believes things will improve, but there comes a point where you have to realize that maybe they won't. "

I think it's because these were people from elsewhere. In their pasts, rain had always come. There might be a year or even two where rainfall was low and they called it a drought. They didn't have the concept that dry years could follow one behind the other for nearly a decade.

Add to that the misinformation they were getting from people who believed that planting crops or trees could change the climate or from rainmakers who thought setting off explosions could cause rain. They didn't just have too little information, but added to it bad information.

It's always been a powerful image for me that from a handful of seed comes a field of crop and a farmer's whole livelihood. It's almost mystical and to cling to that relationship would be so powerful. I especially felt for poor Don Hartwell scraping together enough money to buy some seed and planting it over and over again.

Jan O'Cat


message 77: by OMalleycat (new)

OMalleycat (JanOMalleycat) | 89 comments Kate said: " I don't really understand much about static electricity, so reading that they drug chains behind the cars to help with that issue is hard for me to really understand."

I remember in my childhood semi-trucks always had a chain dragging to discharge static electricity. In fact, it must still be done because a couple of years ago when we were at the end of a drought cycle and the wildfires were bad, people were asked to remove any dragging objects from their cars as the sparks could set fires along the highways.

I don't know any more about static electricity than you do, Kate. It forms in the air when the humidity is low and also with some weather phenomena. Friction exacerbates it. It has to do with charged ions and that kind of thing. I assume this is the same everywhere and I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.

I'm assuming that the roiling air of a thunderstorm, but without the intervening humidity of rain, caused the huge static build-up in the dust storms.

I didn't know that static electricity was part of the Dust Bowl problems. It's hard to believe that the same phenomenon that gives you a zap when you drag your feet across the carpet could build to the point that it would kill plants and really jolt humans.

Is this a problem that's peculiar to the Southwest? It's something that I would have assumed is the same everywhere. In the winter we are warned that when filling our cars with gas, we need to touch the car somewhere upon getting out, before touching the gas pump. Static builds up from the friction while driving and discharging by touching the gas pump has caused explosions.

In the winter we get a zap every time we cross a carpet and then touch something. It really bothers my sensorily sensitive students. What feels like a little thwap to most is real pain to them.

Jan O'Cat


message 76: by kate/Edukate12 (new)

kate/Edukate12 | 183 comments Jan:
Speaking of seeds, I found it heartbreaking to read about the farmers and even the women who had gardens, investing in seed over and over again, only to have the crops fail every time. They put so much faith in having seed and then the climate would fail them.
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I can imagine the hope and optimism associated with seeds for the first year or two. After that it is hard for me to imagine sticking with it. I'm one who always believes things will improve, but there comes a point where you have to realize that maybe they won't. I suppose they had little choice but to keep trying since they were finacially strapped, but I doubt I would have had the heart to keep going.


message 75: by kate/Edukate12 (new)

kate/Edukate12 | 183 comments Alias Reader wrote: "kate/Edukate12 wrote: "I started the book today too. Hope others will join in!"
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Kate, what is your avatar a picture of? Is it pasta with cheese on top? If so how could yo..."


The avatar is Cincinnati chili. : ) It is a classic in this area with two main chains that serve similar versions. Yup, it is spaghetti, chili and tons of cheese. You are also expected to order a cheese coney with the chili. I have this about once a year, but I love it. It's just way too heavy to indulge in with any regularity, though many do. You can order the basic 3-way version which is exactly what I descrbied, or you can order a 4-way or 5-way. One of those versions includes beans. Cincinnati chili is to this area what Buffalo wings are to Buffalo. : )

As for the book, I'm almost finished with it. I've learned a lot, and am still pondering much. I don't really understand much about static electricity, so reading that they drug chains behind the cars to help with that issue is hard for me to really understand. I am finding the book relentlessly sorrowful, and I suspect that's exactly the way life was during this period. To be honest, I'll be relieved when I finish so I can return to some fiction.


message 74: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 10, 2009 09:38PM) (new)

OMalleycat (JanOMalleycat) | 89 comments Alias said: " What did you think of the poem at the end of Hartwell's diary? It seemed to still have a thankful sentiment. That they were grateful for the love and happiness they had, even if the time was short and it ended tragically"

I read it more woefully than you did, but that's no doubt because I really struggled through the last section of Hartwell's diary. I kept waiting for some kind of redemption, but it just never came (not being fiction!).

The poem to me expresses the double tragedy of the Dust Bowl and also of the history of much of the settlement of the west. The people who came west were often looking for some release from poverty, ties to traditional culture, or ethnic or other restrictions. Often they endured unbelievable hardship on the journey west.

Initially each new settlement had "boom" elements--there would be success, a new social order, and even financial success if not wealth.

Then inevitably there would be bust. Lives would be lost to illness or violence. Financial booms would be restricted by cycles of nature or poor investments. Civilization would follow the pioneers and crowd them with the strictures they'd been trying to escape. I always think of Pa Ingalls who kept moving West as towns grew up around each of his homesteads.

The Dust Bowl was a bigger tragedy than most of the boom-and-bust cycles, but on the other hand it started with a greater boom. So many people got rich. Even the Bam Whites and Doc Dawsons who weren't necessarily looking to get rich at least had the brief illusion that they could establish a secure home.

So, I see on rereading the poem and your comments about it, that it does say that having that brief moment is better than having had only an "earthen" life. But what originally struck me was the devastating contrast of the crystalline, "golden, singing moment(s)" and the final "lifeless dust." To me, having had such a fine time makes the dusty finale all the sadder.

Jan O'Cat


message 73: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 11765 comments What did you think of the poem at the end of Hartwell's diary? It seemed to still have a thankful sentiment. That they were grateful for the love and happiness they had, even if the time was short and it ended tragically. That's pretty amazing considering what they went through. To be honest, I would have been bitter. Did you read it the same way?

We had a crystal moment
Snatched from the hands of time,
A golden, singing moment
Made for love and rhyme.

What if it shattered in our hands
As crystal moments must?
Better than earthen hours
changing to lifeless dust.




message 72: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 14, 2009 06:33AM) (new)

OMalleycat (JanOMalleycat) | 89 comments I will say that this book has made me curious to travel to the Oklahoma Panhandle. I've driven through the Texas Panhandle many times--Amarillo, Lubbock, and points in between. I don't remember it as a particularly barren area; in fact I'd describe it as "plains." It's miles and miles of rolling grassland.

I believe the worst of the Dust Bowl was right in the area Egan focuses on--that corner where Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas meet. Does Egan make a point of this or is it information I've gotten elsewhere?

Anyway, I'm wondering if that area has also recovered. I've never been farther northwest in my state than perhaps 30-50 miles past Oklahoma City.

I've always heard it's a long and tedious drive to the Panhandle. Somewhere up there are salt flats from ancient seas and mesaland. Sounds like it could be desolate. Deborah, when you lived in Guymon did you feel a part of Oklahoma? I have some distant step-relatives who live there and they always seemed more oriented to Amarillo than Oklahoma.

I used to have a girlfriend whose grandmother lived in Liberal, Kansas. We always wanted to make a trip to visit her grandmother and then go on to nearby Holcomb, KS where the In Cold Blood murders took place. Then she got married, had a kid, and we never did it. But I sure thought about the deslation and isolation of Capote's setting when Egan mentioned Liberal. Kansas.

Jan of the Meandering Sensibility and Loose Connections


message 71: by OMalleycat (new)

OMalleycat (JanOMalleycat) | 89 comments Alias said: "They could still have been separated when he died and she may have just been the only one related to him to go over his things. Since so much was quoted from his jnl, having no follow-up was poor judgement on the author's part. "

In the Epilogue, when Egan tells the story of Hartwell's diary nearly being burned, he says that it went to the Nebraska Historical Society. It's just this moment occurred to me that Verna and Don Hartwell had no children, so Egan probably didn't interview anyone related to them. It's possible that all of his information about them came from the diary and public records. He may simply have not had any further information on them.

Sometimes history is like that. :-)

Jan O'Cat


message 70: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 11765 comments kate/Edukate12 wrote: "I started the book today too. Hope others will join in!"
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Kate, what is your avatar a picture of? Is it pasta with cheese on top? If so how could you ! :O You're killing me ! I don't think that is a approved food for us dieters. :)

How are you doing with the book? Any thoughts on it ?





message 69: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 11765 comments Jan:
Speaking of seeds, I found it heartbreaking to read about the farmers and even the women who had gardens, investing in seed over and over again, only to have the crops fail every time. They put so much faith in having seed and then the climate would fail them.
------------------

Yes, that was heartbreaking. How they had the faith, and the strength since they were starving, to continue on is beyond me. But for me when the crops did start to grow at the end, and then the grasshoppers came and wiped out everything in minutes was just too much. It was painful to read. I cannot imagine what these people felt.

When I read about the constant choking dust, I actually felt claustrophobic. A stuffed up nose from a cold can make me feel panicky. There is no way I could have remained there and stayed sane.

Thank heaven for FDR. At least some of the people were able to move thanks to the $ they received from the govt. And his farm programs started to heal the land. The best book I read last year, The Defining Moment,
The Defining Moment FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope by Jonathan Alter
really gives one a clear sense of how close this country was to a precipice. And how fortunate we were to have FDR.

I'm glad you read the book, Jan. It's nice to have someone to discuss it with. I was watching your reading progress on your bookshelf. :) I like that feature. I don't know if I would use it for all my reads, but for a group read I found it helpful.



message 68: by OMalleycat (new)

OMalleycat (JanOMalleycat) | 89 comments Alias asked: "He notes "It became one of the most significant images of the time." Did I miss this picture in the book? I don't see it in my book. Odd,that he would mention it, and not show it. "

Alias, I thought as I read it that it's such a famous image that he didn't feel the need to include it. I could immediately picture the exact picture he was citing.

For a moment I thought it might be a copyright issue, but the link you included certainly makes it seem that these pictures must be "public domain" or something similar. The site offers high definition images with no notes about permission to use or any of that.

Jan O'Cat


message 67: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 10, 2009 08:55PM) (new)

OMalleycat (JanOMalleycat) | 89 comments Alias said: "At first I didn't care for the style of the book. I would have liked a more straightforward rendition with footnotes."

I'm inclined to give oral histories (and I read this as an offspring of an oral history with research interspersed in the personal stories) a broader margin in terms of scholarly expectations. Personal accounts of a historical event give a much more compelling story, but by their nature are inclined to small inaccuracies.

I did find troubling the evidence that the book had been sloppily edited in some respects. There was often mention of a "character" or an event which hadn't yet been formally introduced. I didn't take note of these as I read, but I remember noticing several. The one I remember (because it came close to the end of the book) was a passing mention of grasshoppers destroying crops, but the stories of the swarms of insects didn't come until a couple of chapters later. It seemed to me like someone had worked to intersperse the personal narratives with Egan's research-driven passages (presumably to keep interest alive) but hadn't taken enough care to make sure there weren't any references without antecedents.

I don't know much about the National Book Award. I'm assuming it's for high-interest books more than for excellence of writing or presentation. I liked this book. I thought it was a fascinating account. But the interest was all in the compelling subject matter, not in excellence of presentation.

Jan O'Cat


message 66: by OMalleycat (last edited Jun 10, 2009 08:56PM) (new)

OMalleycat (JanOMalleycat) | 89 comments I found the statistics at the beginning of Chapter 20 stunning. "More than 850 million tons of topsoil had blown off the plains in the last year, nearly 8 tons of dirt for every resident of the United States."

The next sentence I find hard to believe: "In the Dust Bowl, farmers lost 480 tons per acre." That's 960,000 pounds of soil per acre (if my limited math skills are correct). I found myself trying to envision what a pound of soil looks like, but even if I could figure that out, 960,000 is way beyond my capacity to understand. An acre just isn't that big.

Some of the figures Egan gives about falling dust or even about the size of the dust dunes that collected in various places are amazing. It's impossible to fully conceive the enormity of the problem.

Jan O'Cat


message 65: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (AliasReader) | 11765 comments JanOMalleycat wrote: I'm very sorry that Egan didn't give us some kind of follow-up on the story of the Hartwells. (I hope that's not a spoiler!) Except for the note in the epilogue about a neighbor stopping Verna from burning her husband's diary, we wouldn't even know whether they ever got back together or not. I thought there was a clear indication in the text that they did NOT, but I must have misread it.
.."

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I was sorry their story wasn't followed up, too.

I thought they separated. It wasn't really clear.
They could still have been separated when he died and she may have just been the only one related to him to go over his things. Since so much was quoted from his jnl, having no follow-up was poor judgement on the author's part.


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Books mentioned in this topic

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl (other topics)
Fatally Flaky (other topics)
The Grapes of Wrath (other topics)
Out of the Dust (other topics)
Edward Sheriff Curtis (other topics)
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Authors mentioned in this topic

John Steinbeck (other topics)
Timothy Egan (other topics)