Once upon a time when rain followed the plow

Jul 13, 2014

Author and UNL geography professor, David Wishart
Author and UNL geography professor, David Wishart
Credit dailynebraskan.com

Once upon a time there was a myth that motivated pioneers to go west and settle the Great Plains.  Told that rain would follow the plow that they were “changing climate for the better”, these hardy souls broke up vast seas of sod working to make their farming Eden a reality. 

David J. Wishart recently released his fourth book, "The Last Days of the Rainbelt."  It chronicles railroad development that made settlement possible, the growth of towns and new states, and the unpredictable weather patterns that brought both the hoped-for moisture and the ever-feared drought, causing economic booms and busts according to a review from Foreward Reviews.

Wishart collected interviews from original homesteaders by the Civil Works Administration in 1933 and 1934 in eight eastern Colorado counties, land office and census records, diaries, newspapers, photographs, and historical atlases to construct a living archive.

The geography professor brings the rain-belt myth into line with current science and concludes that ““climatic models, though not always in agreement, predict a continuation” of a gradual increase in temperature and decrease in rainfall throughout the region.”

More about the book is available from the University of Nebraska Press.  You can also hear interviews with the author from NET and Wisconsin Public Radio.