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Frequent Contributor

Re: Anyone watch Dust Bowl on PBS?

Jeff, I farm in the sw corner of Wallace County. It is about 1 mile from CO and 1 mile from the Greeley County KS border.

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Veteran Advisor

Re: Anyone watch Dust Bowl on PBS?

My grandpa had told many of the stories much like we have all heard, but where we live, got a 'bit' of rain, so in the periods where the dust wasn't blowing much, we had some green on the ground, or so he said.  Anyway, that was like a magnet for the grasshoppers.  He tells stories of the old Model T overheating from all the hoppers plugging the radiator, and when they were on the move, they were so thick, you just walkd/ran them over when you traveled.  He tells stories about his dad (great grandpa) making one of the kids walk up on ahead, to the top of a long hill, and wave if it was safe to climb up.  It seemed, on the more traveled roads, the hopper guts were so thick, that the layer of slime on the road got so thick, you would spin out on some of the steeper hills, driving on them, and people went to always having a traveling companion, and one of them would walk to the top of the hill, if it looked slimy.  If no one was coming from the other side, he would wave the driver up the hill, and they would drive in the middle, or on the wrong side of the road,to miss the tracks of slime that formed as people dove.  Many farmers in the area got jobs in town, and the side of the road with the most traffic, was the slimiest.  You either left early, to beat the rush, or took someone along, to walk up the hill, and watch for traffic. 

He also said, about the time people thought it was another coming of the biblical plague, they were gone.   They just left.  They came in, as a swarm, and left as a swarm, after everything was eaten.

 

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Senior Contributor

Re: Anyone watch Dust Bowl on PBS?

Wow. that is amazing. I remember a couple of years growing up when the hoppers were really bad by our definition then, but that was nothing compared to these kinds of stories. Again, I can hardly even fathom hoppers like that.

 

i remember my granddad talking about when they had to shoot a bunch of the local guys' cattle, but unlike the story in the movie last night, they didn't have a ditch or ravine to bury them in, so they just burned the carcasses. Can you imagine that? I darn sure can't. 

 

I can't wait to watch this thing again tonight. great stories, everybody. Makes me thankful to come from folks tough enough to make it through all this! 

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Advisor

Re: Anyone watch Dust Bowl on PBS?

Thanks for sharing the posting on this topic. The first installment of The Dust Bowl took me down the back roads of memory to the stories about the "dirty thirties" I heard from my mother and grandparents about life on our Nebraska farm. A photo of my grandparents hand-harvesting corn during the period is testimony to the toughness of the times--and the people. I used the image in my blog yesterday: Dust bowled over.

 

For me, the film did a great job of depicting the human drama of the era, as well as documenting how the government came to support the people of the plains with job assistance and conservation research and planning.

 

It's a little hard to think that we could ever go down that road again, but after this summer's drought it became possible to imagine.

 

John

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Honored Advisor

Re: Anyone watch Dust Bowl on PBS?

yes John,

 

The book sort of dismissed the government projects as ineffective.  While that may be true overall in climate control,  The work done by the Panhandle State research folks and the adoption of new practices was very effective and worthwhile.  The film handled that better.  And the loss of life was not exagerated.  In all the tough survivors there was a % with emotional damage that was unrepairable----------I thought the best example of that was the gal who homesteaded and used the 1930's equipment for decades after, because she was not going to spend for newer or better.

 

I know where that place is and I will think of that gal every time I here the "women's rights" issue raised.  That Iowa girl/okie farmer was a great story.  

Frequent Contributor

Re: Anyone watch Dust Bowl on PBS?

As a no-tiller I completely agree. We have to begin farming to utilize resources to achieve the best outcome. Where I farm in WC Kansas the traditional summer fallow farmers are now in a situation not unlike thiose of the '30s. Those guys destroyed most, if not all cover they had to protect the soil and now it's mostly gone without an established wheat crop cover. BTW, I'm farming with a 1983 JD tractor. I did buy a used 2005 JD no-till drill this year, but only bought it because my previous drill wouldn't work for no-till. I planted a cover crop and some milo last spring, but because of the drought I chose not to plant winter wheat this fall, in hopes of maintaining as much cover as possible. After 2 years of it I pray we are at the end of his drought not at the beginning.

Honored Advisor

Re: Anyone watch Dust Bowl on PBS?

Try to be patient,  My dad left your area to come south to the sandier area(to find work) in the 40's.  Said "the tighter ground just has to wait for rain".  He agreed with your decision.

We have been doing the no-til rotation for a short while and watching good farmers around make it work for several years.  You are right----it fits us well.

 

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Senior Advisor

Re: Anyone watch Dust Bowl on PBS?

My impression of the presentation was that there was not just one cause of the dust bowl.  It was not just farmers plowing up the land.  It was not just the drought.  It was not just high grain prices because of the war years.  Many factors came together to casue what we know of as the Dust Bowl and the Dirty Thirties.

In my opinion, it is dangerous to take any one theme out of context and make it the object of single minded action.  It seems to me one needs a holistic approach to the situaiton.

Those who said the Great Plains should return to grass are ignoring the realities and pressures of the world food situaiton now and in the predictable future.

Those who say the Ogallal aquifer should be left alone or the future cities will be without water ignore that fact that future cities have options and choices of their own.

I think we spend too much time trying to preserve the ecolgoy that we have without recognizing that nature is changing on us.  Over the periods of the earth's existence it has seen many dramatic episodes of geology and climate.  Much of central America was once a great sea.  The icecaps are melting and our reaction is to build higher dikes?  In other words, we need to get away from the idea that we can control the climate and focus more on adapting to it as it changes.  Which is a very hard task.

Advisor

Annual short-term droughts

That expression, "farm like it is not going to rain again," is an intriguing one, isn't it?  I wrote up a short article (full story) for the magazine recently in which I quoted Howard van Es, a Cornell crops and soils expert, as saying that even in most years during a normal growing season farmers experience soil moisture shortages through annual short-term droughts. That idea had never dawned on me before.  - John

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Senior Contributor

Re: Anyone watch Dust Bowl on PBS?

Very good points. One figure that stuck out in my mind from the first night of the show was when they said, in either '32 or '33 (one of those early-decade years), the temperature hit 100 degrees in Fargo, ND...in MAY! 

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