Dust Bowl / Dirty Thirties | John Steinbeck / Woody Guthrie / Winton Slagle Sipe / Caroline A. Henderson

“Houses were shut tight, and cloth wedged around doors and windows, but the dust came in so thinly that it could not be seen in the air, and it settled like pollen on the chairs and tables, on the dishes.”

A farmer and his two sons during a dust storm in Cimarron County, Oklahoma, 1936
Photo: Arthur Rothstein

"And then the dispossessed were drawn west- from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Car-loads, 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."

Buried machinery in barn lot in Dallas, South Dakota,
in the midst of the Dust Bowl, 1936

"On the fourteenth day of April of 1935
There struck the worst of dust storms that ever filled the sky...

From Oklahoma City to the Arizona Line
Dakota and Nebraska to the lazy Rio Grande
It fell across our city like a curtain of black rolled down,
We thought it was our judgment, we thought it was our doom..."

Woody Guthrie - Great Dust Storm Disaster

"One evening, we kids were playing in the granary when the sky started to get cloudy. The clouds were very dark and appeared to be solid and rolling on the ground as they approached from the southwest. Mother called Sis to come to the house and sent Willis and I to the woodpile to get the wood before the storm struck. The wood pile was about fifty yards from the kitchen door. By the time we got our arms full of wood, the clouds had completely blocked out the sun, and it was very dark and eerie. As we started to the house a few large drops of muddy rain fell, and then the dust and wind reached us. Before we got to the house, the air was so full of dust we could not open our eyes and could hardly breathe. Mother wet cloths and tied them over nose and mouth as the dust was so thick, even in the house, that you could not breathe. The storm lasted all night, and when we got up the next morning there was about an inch of fine, red dust on everything in the house."

“To prepare the ground as well as we may, to sow our seeds, to cultivate and care for, that is our part. Yet, how difficult it is for some of us to learn, that the results we must leave to the great silent unseen forces of nature. Whether the crop be corn, or character.”
 Caroline A. Henderson, ‘Letters from the Dustbowl’

Dorothea Lange, Toward Los Angeles, California, 1937

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,*
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,^
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

T. S. Eliot / The Burial of the Dead / The Waste Land / 1922

*Ezekiel 2:1.

^Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets

Ecclesiastes 12:5.


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