Sign In

, United States (USA) (American Colonies) - 1935 - Dust Bowl: The great dust storm in the United States hits eastern New Mexico and Colorado, and western Oklahoma the hardest.


By Robert Geiger
(Associated Press Staff Writer.)
GUYON, Okla., April 15. - (AP.) - Three little words - achingly familiar on a western farmer's tongue - rule life today in the dust bowl! of the continent ---.

If it rains...

Ask any farmer, any merchant, any banker what the outlook is, and you hear them - if it rains...

If it rains... some farmers will get a wheat crop.
If it rains... fresh row crops may flourish.
If it rains... pasture and range for livestock may be stored.
If it rains... fields quickly lifted into wind-resisting clods may stop the dust.
If it rains... it always has!

The next three weeks will tell the story.

Black and saffron clouds of dust, spectacular, menacing, intensely irritating to man and beast alike, choking, blowing out tender crops, and lasting without mercy for days, have darkened everything but hope and a sense of humor in the dust sector of the Southwest.

Only Small Part.
The Southwest is big and the dust area is only a small chunk of it. Roughly, it takes in the western third of Kansas, southeastern Colorado, the Oklahoma Panhandle, the northern two-thirds of the Texas Panhandle, and northeastern New Mexico.

It has always been a region of sparse rainfall. The World war, with its high wheat prices and urgent demands, sent the plow into the sod and turned this into wheat country. Before then it was range land, and the crop was native buffalo grass, which held the soil firm against the insistent winds.

The last three years have been years of drouth, with this spring's field-eroding dust storms their sifting climax. But dust storms are nothing new in the Southwest. Forty years ago - decades before wheat farmers came with their combines - a dust storm of such violence swept Kansas that stopped trains, just as they were stopped last week.

"This is a tough, hardy country," its farmers say, "it will come back overnight."

Two Distinct Types.
Dusters approach the prairie country in two ways.

Sometimes they start when a gigantic yellow and red cloud floats across the country, high in the air, blotting out the sun.

The wind is gently, growing in velocity very slowly. This type of storm carries a fine, powdery silt that seems soft and hazy - until you start breathing it.

The other type starts with a blast, and a huge black cloud approaches the plains at tremendous speed. It strikes all at once along a well defined front. It carries sand and on hands and face, feels like the blast of a chaff from a threshing machine.

When at its height, bright lights in towns are invisible across the street, visibility is zero and within buildings lights must be turned on as at night.

The fine silt penetrates motor blocks, and if motorists are unwary, grinds out bearings.

Bring Huge Drifts.
These are the storms which leave drifts of dust along the highways and fences, some times dust drifts up to the eaves of farm buildings.

It can't be kept out of a house and dishes have to be washed not three times, but six times daily - before and after every meal.

But despite the hardship, and a generally unencouraging prospect, not a single one of more than 100 farmers interviewed by your correspondent was leaving the country. Each one had hope of getting a crop.

Take Charles Hitch, an elderly rancher-farmer, living south of Guymon, who came here in 1886.

"For the first time since I have been on Coldwater creek - and I was the first settler - we are thinking of shipping cattle to greener pastures," he said.

Drought Is Worse.
"Recent dust storms are not much more severe than others in former years," Hitch said, "but the drought is worse."

"My ranges have supported as many as 10,000 head, but I have only 800 head now and they cannot find sufficient feed. We have to feed them cottonseed cake.

"But cattle prices are on the upgrade, and I am not discouraged. We even will get a wheat crop if rains comes. If there is no rain, we will have to start shipping cattle in a few weeks."

A. L. Thoreson lives over the line in Texas, and is a big wheat producer. He raised 90,000 bushels in 1931, got only 25 cents a bushel for it. The best he can hope for, he thinks, is a half-crop.

"But we are not suffering acutely," he added. "The government is paying better than a dollar an acres to us in wheat benefits, and in addition we can sell what wheat we raise. That will keep farmers going. The federal wheat program is OK, and if it wasn't for that the farmers would be in an awful hole. They can hold on indefinitely with wheat payments."

Weather History: 1935 Black Sunday Dust Storm

Corsicana Semi-Weekly Light
Corsicana, Texas
April 16, 1935

Visit United States (USA) (American Colonies)
Discover the people who lived there, the places they visited and the stories they shared.

The comments you read here belong only to the person who posted them. We reserve the right to remove off-topic and inappropriate comments.