It could be argued that few public television broadcasts have sparked Texas Panhandle conversation quite like the one that told the story of a great American tragedy, known as the Dust Bowl.
Well, for those who might have missed the first airing of the documentary, they’ll get a second chance on March 10 and 11, when “The Dust Bowl” is shown again on KACV-TV. The documentary, produced by renowned filmmaker and historian Ken Burns, airs both nights at 8.
The first installment is titled “The Great Plow Up,” and it tells the story of the plowing techniques that contributed to what’s considered the greatest manmade ecological disaster in U.S. history. The shorthand version simply is this: Farmers plowed up native grassland all across the Panhandle, destroying the root systems that held the soil together during heavy windstorms. When the wind arrived in the mid-1930s — coupled with the devastating lack of moisture — the soil blew away in massive clouds that covered literally thousands of square miles of the region.
The second installment is titled “Reaping the Whirlwind,” which chronicles the suffering that fell on thousands of Panhandle residents. It speaks of dust pneumonia that killed the very young and the very old. It tells of the years-long heartache and loss that people endured. They lost their livelihoods, their land, and most tragically of all, their loved ones.
“The Dust Bowl” story is recounted on air by those who lived through it. They were children or young adults at the time, but they survived, persevered and went on with their lives. They tell tales of heroism, of pride and of fortitude against horrific obstacles brought on Mother Nature’s wrath.
This documentary tells a compelling story of the High Plains and the Texas Panhandle that reminds us of the special people who built this region and who created a legacy that should make us proud.