Dust Bowl

This past Thanksgiving, James Fallow, national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, and his wife Deborah stopped in Guymon, Oklahoma as a “a most anticipated waypoint” on their cross-country trip by small plane. The object of their sojourn that day was the homestead of Caroline Henderson whose “Letters from the Dust Bowl were published in The Atlantic some 80 years ago. Deborah Fallows recounts their flight in, visit to the homestead and Thanksgiving dinner in Guymon in this piece:

James Falows

Eighty years ago, Caroline Henderson wrote from her homestead in the Oklahoma panhandle for The Atlantic magazine.  Her popular regular installments, "Letters from the Dust Bowl", brought the reality of the daily grit and grind of the Dust Bowl to a national audience. 

Nick Hayes / Jonathan Cape

Many books have been written about Woody Guthrie and photographs of the Dust Bowl are recognized around the world. Now there is a graphic novel, Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Ballads, that tells the story of Guthrie with imagined dialogue and stark, sepia colored illustrations.  

Michael Brashier/Flickr

Many producers have converted to no-till, and now progressive farmers are learning to cover crop to keep soil covered after harvesting a cash crop. Ryan Speer is such a producer.

Kansas Farmer

Scott Gonnerman started no-till practices in 2005 and began cover-cropping his east Nebraska fields in 2009. He says he used to think of the soil simply as dirt.

United Soybean Board/Flickr

No event did more to emphasize the severity of the erosion crisis than the Dust Bowl affecting High Plains states beginning in the early-1930s.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

When the wind picked up from the south on John Schweiser’s farm outside Rocky Ford, Colo., the sky would go black. A charging wall of dust would force the 80-year-old farmer and his wife to hunker down in their ranch-style farmhouse.

The Root Cause of Stingy

Apr 16, 2013

Go back to May, 1935.  Velma and Ted Wancura have a young son.  They haven't had a wheat crop in years, or rain for that matter.  Most of their cattle herd has been lost in the dust storms.  A tornado took their house.  The Wancuras moved a vacant house in to replace it.

Dark Cloud on the Horizon

Apr 9, 2013

The mid 1930's were the dry years on the high plains.  The drought has taken so much, a tornado took their home, but one young couple continue to persevere.  Velma and Ted Wancura were creative problem solvers.  They had 150 head of cattle, but no grass in the pasture. so   Ted and his brother harvested the cactus that remained for feed.  After burning the spines off with a blow torch, the cactus were placed in a cattle tank where the were well received.  When they were gone, Ted fabricated a truck bed to haul beet tops from the Garden City sugar factory, approximately 50 miles away, where the farm land was irrigated.  That solution worked until weather conditions worsened. 

The Dry Years

Mar 26, 2013

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.   

Where I Come From

Feb 19, 2013

Virginia Kerns Frantz was born near Granada, Colorado on February 28, 1924.  She remembers her childhood as a hand to mouth existence.

Arthur Rothstein / Farm Security Administration

Books and films about the Dust Bowl era, including Ken Burn’s new documentary The Dust Bowl, draw heavily from the deep archive of photographs and films created by the Resettlement Administration and Farm Security Administration from 1935-1942.  You can peruse this collection yourself at the Library of Congress’ online catalogue of the collection.  The catalogue is indexed and easily searchable by place names and subject area