Letter Re: Book Recommendation The Worst Hard Time

Yo Jim,
We live in Roger Mills County, Oklahoma next to the Texas Panhandle.
This summer when the weather reports from Oklahoma City were pointing out temperatures in the 105 to 112 range in areas north and south of us ours here were considerably higher.
We have a large face thermometer in the back yard on a post inside a wooden open faced box facing away from the sun and not in a shaded area.
Yesterday it read 114.
Today it is reading 113 at 3 pm.
Many days it has read 120 pegged to its maximum.
I personally have never experienced such intense heat during my 70 years.
That includes a tour of duty in Niger in the Peace Corps in the Sahel, the southern regions of the Sahara Desert.

We have many trees dying.
You could virtually look out the window and see the vegetation of the countryside dying.
We have had about one inch of rain in the last two weeks.
But it is not enough to save many of the native trees.

Under intense watering twice a day our garden has simply been cooked by the sun.
The only thing doing well are the sweet potatoes and the melons.
The melons are shaded most of the day by 4 rows of dried up corn.
The surviving tomatoes and peppers are mostly in pots in the shade.
But they too are shriveled and not producing any fruit.

Which leads me to mention that I just finished reading The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl.
The book is an historical account of the Dust Bowl days centered around ‘no mans land’ of the Oklahoma Panhandle, the north Texas Panhandle, southeastern Colorado and southwestern Kansas.
This is one of the most fascinating books I have read in many years.
You better keep a box of kleenex handy.
The descriptions of the dust pneumonia deaths and the hardships will bring tears to you regularly.
This was an environmental war against humans.
Caused primarily by the regular cycles of drought coinciding with the plowing up of the prairie to meet the demands of an expanding wheat market that paid huge profits.
Then the whole ecosystem of the high plains collapsed.
With no grass to hold the soil and persistent winds ‘saltation’ of soil began.
Once the soil begins to move with the wind it builds downwind into great storms of dirt that last for hours.
Many many miles wide and extending up to 20,000 feet high.

Want to read about what hard times are about?
Read about these people’s bug out plans.
The Last Man Standing Club.
Jackrabbit roundups.
That is another whole story.
I personally experienced two jackrabbit roundup’s in Kansas in the late 1950s.
These roundups were held SE of Rush Center, Kansas.
The killing frenzy of men with the trapped rabbits in a large enclosure is hell on earth.
The enclosure where I witnessed this killing contained between 2,000 and 2,500 rabbits.
There is no description of words that can describe the chaos, the death sounds of the rabbits, the movement of rabbits in an enclosure with moving rabbit bodies continually in motion 6 to 8 feet high, the blood, wounded rabbits stuck in the fence, rabbit hair floating in the breeze and the absolute maniacal insanity of the killing frenzy of humans after those rabbits.
Then throw in 2 or 3 or 4 coyotes in the pen mixed in for more excitement.
The rabbits were sold for mink farm food and shipped out of state in box cars.

During the Dust Bowl days they canned the rabbit meat for survival.
There was life in the dugout and simple wooden frame homes.
No amount of sealing could keep out the dust.
It was life with dust in everything you owned.
Cars shorted out in the static electricity and stopped running.
Vehicles had a chain over the rear axle dragging on the ground to discharge the static electricity.
People could not shake hands nor touch each other in a dust storm because the discharge of electricity would knock you down or cause you pain.
Dust was in what you ate, what you wore, your nose openings had to be covered in vaseline to keep the dust out of the lungs and it was in your bed.
Buildings were covered in dunes of dust.
Homes were shoveled out, not swept out.
Automobiles, farm implements, whole gardens, chicken houses, the outhouse all were subject to disappearing under mounds of dirt.
Some of these mounds collected into 50 ft. drifts over the years.
Fence lines were buried with only [the top of] the fence post above the dirt.

People caught out in the open when a dust storm came up frequently never survived.
Cattle, horses and pigs chocked to death on dirt.

The story of these peoples endurance, spirit and love of the land is without equal.

There is more…..

Here is raw survival at its best.

There is no fiction that can better this story.

I recommend this book highly.

A regular reader, – J.W.C.