written by Laurie C. Brough
While waiting to checkout at the grocery store I overhear a man telling the cashier how dry it is in far Western Oklahoma. He said, “It is so dry the grasshoppers don’t even bother to stop to take a nibble cause there’s nothing to eat.” Listening to their conversation took me back to one of my Mother’s childhood stories about her days of growing up during the depression and the drought of the 1930’s.
“Life was hard and my parents struggled to keep food on the table. In the morning, Daddy always got up first to tend the fire in the cook stove so Momma could start preparing breakfast before the heat of daylight hit.
After breakfast, my brothers and I would head out to school with our books and our lunch buckets. As we walked down the old dirt road to school we daydreamed of small breezes and cooler days, but then reality hit us in the face. The breeze was more like hot air blowing from a furnace that would sweep up the red Oklahoma dirt and pelt our faces and skin. The dirt found places in the crevices of our bodies to hide irritating our tender skin and rubbing us raw. When we got to school we had to wash off the dirt as best we could and settle down for class, but it was so hard to concentrate in the sweltering heat of the classroom.
As the day passed we began to dread the walk home, for as bad as the walk to school was the walk home was even worse. The sun was so unforgiving and the hot wind was higher and more torturous than in the morning. My brothers and I were so desperate for relief that we would run from cloud shade to cloud shade and from tree shade to tree shade, but those shade spots were far and few between. By the time we got home we were dripping with sweat and our bodies and clothes were covered in red dirt.
When we were not in school or doing our chores, we lain down on the ground and watched the sky in hope that we could spot a rain cloud. They would wisp by every now and then, and a small bit of excitement would catch in our throats, but we didn’t dare shout for joy, because we never knew if Mother Nature was just teasing us or promising us rain. At lunchtime, Daddy would come in from the fields and lay on the floor for his afternoon nap. The floor was cool compared to everyplace else because of the crawl space under the house.
After supper, Daddy would pull the mattresses outside and put them on top of the house or on the ground so we would get the cooler air of the night. We would do anything to find some relief from the torment of heat. We lain under the stars and Daddy would say a prayer for the rains to come and for the depression to end and each day we awoke with hope that change was coming.“
I relish the memories of my Mother’s childhood stories and I love their historical relevance. As history repeats itself I think back on her stories and I realize this is only a rerun and we will prevail just as our ancestors before us.
The Dust Bowl. (2013). The History Channel website. Retrieved 12:02, September 12, 2013, from http://www.history.com/photos/the-dust-bowl.
The book “House of Earth” was released Febuary 5, 2013, decades after Woody’s death on October 3, 1967. According to Guthrie’s daughter, Nora Guthrie, “He always wrote to be heard.”
The historian Douglas Brinkley and actor Johnny Depp are helping to make his wish “to be heard” an even greater reality than already seen through his songs and essays. Brinkley, while working on a biography of Bob Dylan, came across the unpublished novel in his research and made the decision to pursue bringing the work to life from out of the dust.