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:
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.
The Great Gatsby saysApril 15, 2012 at 8:41 pm
Don’t forget Roosevelt’s other big contribution: government purchases of agricultural products past a given quota. Prevented the price depreciation of market flooding…
BossysMom saysApril 15, 2012 at 9:28 pm
Maybe “Salt” is the story of how we fucked up the oceans and there was nothing left but oceans of salt blowing across all the land.
Lovelyn saysApril 15, 2012 at 9:42 pm
Thanks for another great history lesson bossy-style.
Cactus Petunia saysApril 16, 2012 at 2:47 am
Wait. Buffalos have wings?
debkuroiwa saysApril 16, 2012 at 7:43 am
i am from the southeastern corner of colorado and grew up hearing stories of this time from my grandparents (one of the men interviewed for this book, is a friend of our family). this is a book i think that people need to read….it’s amazing. we truly are from some incredibly strong people. i asked my grandfather why he stayed….”well, deb. it’s home,” he said.
Aj Churchboy saysApril 16, 2012 at 7:52 am
Do you guys have any idea who just signed up?????? CAMILLE IS GONNA HURT EM!!!! There’s no contest. My girl is gonna crush em and leave em for the scavengers to pick up! GO CAMILLE! DO YA THING GIRL!!!!
Rachel saysApril 16, 2012 at 11:36 am
I read this a few years ago and LOVED it! Not that I loved the Dust Bowl per se, but the stories in the book were so interesting and demonstrated the strength of the human spirit in the face of such desperate circumstances – it was inspiring!
Suburban Kamikaze saysApril 16, 2012 at 12:24 pm
Salt? I will devour that book with a side of potato chips.
But I won’t make up my mind until I read Bossy’s review. Oh who I am I kidding? The only thing better than an entire book about salt would be an entire book about olives. To be read while eating olives. Little Known Fact: Bossy and I can eat our weight in olives. Why someone has not offered us our own t.v. show is beyond me.
Olivia saysApril 16, 2012 at 1:18 pm
Olivia loves stories like these but she sincerely hopes that the History of Salt does not feature that sad little pepper shaker who goes around posting “Lost” billboards for his friend, Salt.
Olivia tears up over that one every time. In fact, she can no longer watch that ad on TV.
Poor little Pepper.
Angela saysApril 16, 2012 at 3:36 pm
I read this book after living in the High Plains for 6 years. My little town and some of the area’s families are mentioned. Very good reading!
Shannon saysApril 17, 2012 at 1:41 pm
Both of those books are great reads! Growing up in the plains we heard about the dust storms in history class. Very sad time for middle Americans.
Lynn saysApril 18, 2012 at 2:18 am
Ree doesn’t have you listed on her blog-roll anymore…how come?
Her Ace in the Hole saysApril 22, 2012 at 8:58 pm
Love this post. My kinfolk are in Oklahoma and I went to college in Tulsa. And I know how to two-step.
Ree isn’t that far from Tulsa and I have a hankering one day to get all stalker on her and show up at her ranch begging her for some steak with gorgonzola butter.
I’m sure she would be very scared and her cowboy husband would chase me away with a rifle.
Her Ace in the Hole saysApril 22, 2012 at 8:59 pm
Actually Bossy, since your are friends with Ree and I am friends with lots of others in Oklahoma, and since we are sort of friends because once you answered one of my tweets, I think we should each road trip and meet in Oklahoma. I will teach you how to two-step, and you could possibly get me in Ree’s front door.
See how the Universe works??