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High Plains History Episode
Tue March 26, 2013
The Dry Years
The hard times began long before the dust storms that inspired movies, documentaries, and books. There was no rain, no crops, wheat was .25 cents a bushel, which would have been something if there was any wheat to harvest. For Velma Wancura, the dry years meant going back to work as a teacher. That wage supported her family.
In 1934, it was so dry that farmers cut Russian Thistles while they were still green, and stacked them to feed cattle. There was no wheat. Velma and her husband, Ted, lived on a farm south of Dighton. They were the only family that remained in the area, everyone else had moved away. It was purchased on a wheat payment plan from the Federal Land Bank in Garden City, Kansas. This was a percentage plan. You were required to plant a certain number of acres of wheat, the bank retained the lion's share, and you made due with what was left and worked to make it through to the next year. During this time, Velma discovered she was pregnant, a condition not conducive to teaching. She was forced to resign. Can you imagine? You have no crop, no farm, no job, no rain, and a baby on the way? Will it get better before it gets worse? We'll discover that answer in the next episode.