We’re getting a taste of the Dust Bowl

Here’s a flash for you: Panhandle residents from Perryton to Plainview have been talking about the weather the past few days.

OK, you knew that already. You likely already also know that some of the long-time residents of the region are talking about how the weather of late kinda-sorta resembles a long-ago event.

The Dust Bowl, yes?

Well, it’s on the minds of many of us as we’ve watched the sky turn from blue to brown and as we’ve battled high wind and in some cases have had to wash mud drops off our vehicles as we’re driving through the storm.

It hasn’t been pretty around here. Think, though, of what it must have been like about 80 years ago.

The Great Depression had gripped the nation. Drought settled in over a huge region of the middle of the country. Then the wind started to blow … and blow … and blow some more.

The wind whipped up enormous storm clouds of top soil that was blown into the air, forming clouds so black that they blotted out the sun. The dirt blew into people’s homes, their motor vehicles, and yes into their lungs. The very young and the very old died of what came to be known as “dust pneumonia,” a condition that prevented them from taking breaths. Their lungs filled with fluid.

Farmers saw their land literally blow away. Livestock couldn’t eat; they starved to death. Livelihoods were lost. People moved far away. Others, though, stayed behind. They persevered and fought their way back.

The Dust Bowl was the world’s worst man-made ecological disaster. It was the creation of poor farming techniques begun at the turn of the 20th century. Farmers tilled up native grassland, cultivated it and planted crops on what nature had provided as a way to stop the soil from blowing away.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Famed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns recently produced “The Dust Bowl,” telling the story of that terrible time through the eyes of those who lived through it. Panhandle PBS broadcast the documentary and it brought the misery home to many of those who are still around to recall it.

Many folks are talking once again about that time and remembering — or imagining — how it was for those who fought their way through the hardship.

Are we returning to a new Dust Bowl era? Probably not.

Then again …

***

Take a look at this site. It gives you a good idea of what happened here on the High Plains so very long ago. It also will remind you of just how tough our region’s forebears had to be to survive.

daysofdust.org

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