I have just finished reading The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl and I cannot believe I did not read this book before now. In amazing fashion, author Timothy Egan covers the history of those who lived through the Dust Bowl, a period in our past in which severe dust storms absolutely destroyed the middle of the country. Reading it was like reading a book of fiction, the stories are so extreme and mind-blowing; I really had trouble believing that all of that went on back in the middle of the 1930’s.
As a testament to how much man can affect his surroundings, the Dust Bowl was brought on by farmers settling in the prairies, ripping up all the grass to plant only wheat, and then dealing with an extreme drought that lasted for years. With the grass gone and the wheat dying due to a lack of rainfall, millions of acres of dirt was left behind and picked up by severe wind storms to create “black blizzards” which brought daytime temperatures down by 40 degrees in just an hour, blocked out the sun for days, and left homesteaders with a condition known as dust pneumonia. 100,000,000 acres were affected by the Dust Bowl, covering land in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas.
The book covers the beginning of the “nesting” of the prairies all the way through President Franklin D. Roosevelt doing his best to remedy a situation that somehow no one saw coming. The residents of the plains absolutely destroyed millions of acres of land and it is a wonder that anything grows out there anymore. The book is a phenomenal look into what happened and why, and hopefully it can serve as an advance warning of what power we wield over our environment. “History repeats itself” isn’t just an expression; it has real meaning. Let’s hope we learn from our past mistakes that lead to the Dust Bowl.
I highly recommend you check it out, it’s a great read.