April 15, 2012

Oklahoma And The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Years


Bossy recently finished a book about the Great American Dust Bowl, and the worst, hard time created by those events. Which is something of a coincidence since the book is titled The Worst Hard Time. Maybe because The Best Easy Time was already taken.

Here’s what happened.

Located in the gut of America is a swath of terrain known as the High Plains. The High Plains, which are a part of the Great Plains, encompass western Nebraska, eastern Colorado, western Kansas, eastern New Mexico, western Oklahoma, northwestern Texas, southeastern Wyoming, southwestern South Dakota, and sister mercy make it stop.


Historically this land belonged to Bison and the Native Americans who moved among them.


And covering this land was a thick, deeply rooted thatch of native grass which swayed with the relentless wind:


The settlers who passed across this land on their way to other parts of the country witnessed a thriving ecosystem under an enormous sky. Which is precisely the time the flush, pre-Depression government decided to get rid of the Native Americans. And the Bison. And the plains grass.

Government incentives were put in place for land ownership, and many of the newbie settlers began experimenting with wheat production, which flourished in the nutrient rich soil:


Many wheat farmers became extremely wealthy growing wheat across the plains — so much so that they bought additional land which they plowed under for more wheat. And then more settlers came. And more plowed land. And more wheat.

And before long there was a surplus of wheat and the wheat prices dropped and piles of grain sat rotting near the train terminals that no longer shipped it.

Meanwhile the rest of the country fell in the throes of the Great American Depression — and Bossy knows what you’re thinking: they were depressed because the prairie grass was being plowed under!


And then a weird thing happened. The wind which blew across this land for all eternity continued to blow across this land. Except now, there was no strongly rooted prairie grass to hold the topsoil in place. And so it lifted.


The dirt lifted and lifted for months and years on end, creating walls of sharply blowing dust which infiltrated houses and lungs, killing everything in its path. Soon nothing would grow and nothing could graze:


Which brings us to the spolier alert: Roosevelt created a program of reseeding this land using American native grass seed from Africa. And eventually the land was restored so it could be used for grazing the cattle that would one day star in a popular blog:

ree-pioneer woman

Thus concludes this edition of Bossy Is Reading So You Don’t Have To! Join us next time when Bossy details the history of Salt.


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