Day Three Hundred Twenty-two

Switching Audio Books

I left the keys at home, plugged in the headphones, and walked up to the bank, to the library, and around town today. I finally finished my audio book, The Worst Hard Time, about the Dust Bowl. Most of FDR’s millions of trees died, and many people left the Great Plains. Some stayed though and continue to farm in an area with very little average rainfall. These farms instead get water from deep underground, from the Ogallala Aquifer, depleting this natural resource at an alarming rate. Thankfully, some of the area was slowly converted back to grassland.

Today, I started a new audio book, Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson. Life After Life is showing up on a number of “Best Books” lists this year, and I thought I’d give it a try.

Good walking, good listening!

Day Three Hundred Two

I’m almost finished with the audio book, The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, so I listened again today as I walked around my neighborhood.

In today’s reading, the Great Plains Drought Area Committee issued a report to the president in August, 1936. The findings were bad. Although the area suffered a severe drought in the 1930s, this area simply does not receive enough average rainfall to raise crops on a regular basis. It was not just a single act of nature that caused the dust storms. Instead, the storms were caused by:

  • homesteading
  • World War I demands for wheat
  • over farming
  • over grazing
  • encouraging inappropriate, sustained agriculture
  • tearing out the buffalo grass which held down the soil

Based on these findings, Hugh Bennett, the head of the Soil Erosion Service, had different types of grasses planted, hoping to find something that would take root. His plan to cover the plains again in grass would take time. Not wanting to wait and in spite of the warnings, President Franklin Roosevelt had another idea–to plant trees up and down the plains.

I don’t think this will end well.

Day Three Hundred One

The Plow that Broke the Plains

I had the car in for repairs today and walked home after dropping it off and again to pick it up. I love being close enough to the mechanic that I’m able to walk.

I listened to some more of my audio book, The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. Today’s passage was about the making of the documentary, The Plow that Broke the Plains. After walking, I watched the movie.

The 25 minute movie, made in 1936 by Pare Lorentz, is worth a watch. The movie features real people from the region, and they were payed much-needed wages for their efforts. Some of the scenes feel staged, and it’s a little clunky in parts, but it did draw national attention to the struggles of the people living through the Dust Bowl.

It was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 1999.

Day Two Hundred Ninety-seven

Stay? Go? Shock!

I listened to some more my audio book, The Worst Home Time by Timothy Egan, as I walked through my neighborhood today. This National Book Award winner recounts the personal stories of the folks that lived through the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

In today’s passage, the residents of “No Man’s Land” struggled whether to stay or go. Many had lived in the area as homesteaders for decades but had good reasons to leave: their families were getting sick, they were broke, and the dust storms were wearing them down. On the other hand, many were not ready to walk away from everything they knew and all of their work. Besides, “Okies” weren’t always welcome in other places. Some left, but many stayed.

I also read about amazing stories of the static electricity that these dust storms caused: blue sparks on fences and repeated shocks with every touch. I don’t understand all of the science behind it, but it’s interesting stuff.

Good listen, good walk!

Day Two Hundred Ninety-five

Light at the Edge of the Dust Bowl

After writing yesterday about learning new things and using time wisely, I decided to get back to the unfinished digital audio books that are just sitting on my phone. Today while walking around my neighborhood, I listened to The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. This book, about the Dust Bowl and the effects on the residents in “No Man’s Land” (around the panhandle of Oklahoma) in the 1930s, has been a great nonfiction read.

I’m at the point in the book where “Black Sunday,”  the worst dust storm of the era, has just occurred in April, 1935. In Washington D.C., Hugh Bennett, the appointed director of the Soil Erosion Service since 1933 was having trouble getting support from Congress for the Soil Conservation Act. After consulting meteorological reports, he cleverly scheduled a meeting of influential Congressmen just days after Black Sunday. During the meeting, the dirt from Oklahoma blew into Washington D. C. The bill passed within days. (Stories like this are better than fiction!)

Folks were starting to realize that it wasn’t just the drought. Much of the dust bowl occurred because of agricultural practices, and in the short term at least, attention was given to the folks in the region that needed help. There was hope.

Interesting stuff; good walk!

Day Twenty-nine


Time of walk:  2:00 PM

Temperature:  59° (felt like 53°)

Weather:  Cloudy and windy

On the headphones:  audio book, The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

This feels like Monday all over again, I know.  Another busy day, so I just walked around my neighborhood.  I went a little farther than yesterday though.  I also took a picture today–of two trees on a corner lot (above).

One of the trees bends east (on the north/south street) and the other bends west (on the east/west street).  I thought it was interesting and have never noticed them before.

Today on my audio book, I read about growing wheat in “No Man’s Land.”  This was not an easy task considering that they were pumping water from underground aquifers that used windmill power.  But when the U.S. government guaranteed $2 per bushel of wheat to be shipped to Europe during the early days of World War I, they turned over even more prairie grass and grew more wheat.

There were warnings not to do this, of course.  The author mentions John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran who warned that farming in this region would be destructive.  He sure looks like a genius now!

Good day, good walk.