When a friend learned where I would be going on this trip she sent me off with a book to read, The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. If you read only one book about the Dustbowl, this is the one to read. From historical accounts and personal interviews, the author describes the suffering and survival of these people during the worst environmental disaster of the time. The same book is available from a British publisher under the title The Long Darkness. It is one of the best reads I’ve had in a long time.
Upon finishing the book early on in the trip and couldn’t wait to visit “No Man’s Land”, the Oklahoma Panhandle. Seventy years on Nature has healed the land with the help of better farming practices, and grasses once again blanket the prairie. At the Museum in Boise City – one of the towns featured prominently in Egan’s book – I asked the lady if there were any places left where the “dust” still remains. If an abandoned homestead was in the scene that would be a bonus. She said there were some small dunes south of town almost to the Texas border. The department of highways have been fighting them for years trying to keep the drifting dust from covering the road. But most of the houses are long since gone. She knew of one or two but I would need a guide in order to find them.
Here is one of the last visible remains of the Dustbowl effects. I scooped up a baggy full. It is extremely fine dirt, like talcum powder. I can well imagine how impossible it was to keep out of their homes and lungs. It was in the pores of my hands for miles on down the road. Having read the book, I still cannot understand how they were able to endure the ever-present dust, wind, heat, starvation and total can't see your hand in front of your face dust storms.