November 20th 2009
The Dust Bowl
The southern plains were one of the greatest places to be in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. Farmers were producing crops with ease, some were even overproducing. Wheat was one of the main things that were making farmers so successful, everything was just growing right for them at the time. In 1931 though there was a drought for farmers, in which many dust storms hit the Southern plains, causing an indescribable amount of damage to farmers and their crops. This catastrophe was known as the Dust Bowl.
The Dust Bowl was caused by several different factors that all seemed to come together at the same time. (http://factoidz.com/facts-about-the-dust-bowl/) There were periods of dust storms that caused agricultural and ecological damage to the Southern plains, and some of the Canadian plains. There was also a drought from early 1931 until roughly 1939, which had killed the farmer’s crops easily. Deep plowing of the virgin topsoil of the Great Plains had killed the natural grasses that normally kept the soil in place and trapped moisture even during periods of drought and high winds. (http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Dust_Bowl) Before the storms, there was an over planting of crops by farmers, the government had told the farmers to keep growing them, and they did. Farmers were making good money after the war because of the prices of crops were selling well, so in order for farmers to plant more crops the farmers needed to buy new land, and more equipment as well. Tractors came to the fields in the 1920’s, which was twice as efficient as horse pulling. With a team of horses, a farmer could get 3 acres of prairie sod in a day, but with a tractor a farmer could get 50. When the 1930’s hit so did the depression, and that seem to be the time when the drought started. The summer of 1931, the rain had stopped, and wheat wasn’t growing at all. With the drought hitting the farmers, farmers were struggling to keep their families alive. Most people thought the world was going to end because of this catastrophe. Families would often hang wet sheets on their doors and windows to trap the dust like a filter. No matter how hard people tried to keep the dust out though, it would still get through the tiniest crack of houses. Dust storms swallowed town’s whole, and thousands would get sick because of these storms. The winds would pick up quickly, and dust was blown everywhere around the Southern plains. Dust masks were required for little children because of the dirty air. The land was so bad after the storms that the plains were often resembled a battlefield from World War I. 100 million of the Southern plains were turning into wastelands. The prairie states were known as Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, and Colorado, and these states were the ones that were affected most by the Dust Bowl. Even the morning after the storms the dust would be settling still, and people who were cooking would eat with dust in the food. It would be in houses in piles, and people would often shovel the dust out of their house each day. There were 14 dust storm reports in 1932, then in 1933 it flew all the way up to 38, and by 1937 there were 137 reports of these storms. Even though the fields were dry, farmers continued to plow, hoping for the rain to come back. People say they could figure out where a dust storm was coming from just by the color of the dust. The colors were black from Kansas, red from Oklahoma, and grey from Colorado or New Mexico. Families would often survive off of corn bread and beans, which that was considered the “good” food. In 1934, a major dust storm had started at the Northern plains of Montana and North and South Dakota. By night the dust had reached the city of Chicago, and by the next morning it was in Boston and New York covering the streets. They say 6000 tons of dust hit the cities, and the dust storm was 1800 miles wide. During the dust storms, the static electricity would be so bad that it would short out cars, leaving people stranded in the middle of these dust storms. The government had tried to help those that were affected by the Dust Bowl because of FDR’s New Deal. They would often help by offering relief checks and food handouts. The fall of 1934 the government would buy farmers cattle, for food. The southern plains were looking more and more like the Sahara desert as the drought continued throughout the years. In 1935, jackrabbits came to the plains and ate everything else that was left in the fields. People would come together to exterminate the jackrabbits for food. Shotguns were used to kill the rabbits at first, but people realized clubs were just as efficient. April 14th, 1935 was considered the worst day of the whole Dust Bowl, people called this day Black Sunday. By the spring of 1935 the wind started to blow for 27 days and nights, and people started to die of what people called dust pneumonia. Animals would be dead in the fields, with dust filled in their stomach, and people would often cough up dirt balls. Home remedies were often used to cure people of their flam and dirt that was lodged in their throats. In 1935, 1/3 of the deaths in Kansas were a result from pneumonia, and kids were vulnerable from this illness. People often left the plains after 4 years of drought. People were giving up and headed west for farming jobs in California. A quarter of the population would end up leaving the plains by 1940, and 2.5 million people moved out of the plains. Banks and other businesses would often go out of business, and schools would close up. In 1937, Washington began a campaign to try and change farmer’s methods. They want them to change their methods so another Dust Bowl catastrophe would not be created again. The soil loss had been reduced by sixty-five percent, yet the drought continued. People would often be dependent on the government because of the drought continuing. Farmers would have to continue to plow the fields so the dust wouldn’t cause havoc again. In the spring of 1939, people often thought the Dust Bowl was causing an American Sahara. About six months later, rain clouds came and the drought was ending. Dry fields were overflowing with wheat again, and there were limitations on the land too because of the conditions the Dust Bowl had left. The way I determined my resources and how I determined their significance was when I looked through the websites. I looked through various websites and the ones that I saw were long and had a lot of information I paid more attention to rather than the one that had little information. I also used a movie about the Dust Bowl that I found very useful to myself for this report. I didn’t use any textbooks because they are secondary resources and they can usually be found incorrect, which is why I didn’t use any. This report had also given me more information on what the Dust Bowl was about; I had always found the Dust Bowl interesting, which is why I wanted to do a report on it.