The Worst Hard Time

Timothy Egan’s book about the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s describes what the people of that era and location endured and it is incredible—children and old people dying of dust pneumonia, canning Russian thistles to eat, eating road kill, shoveling dirt out of their houses for years, watching their animals die because the animals’ respiratory and digestive systems were clogged with dust. [1]  These people were made of sterner stuff than we are today.

The Dust Bowl was caused by humans, specifically mistaken public policy and a lack of knowledge.  The government encouraged the settlement of this area (which they had originally promised to the Indians).  The ranchers who had lived in that area for some time knew that it was only suited for grazing.  However, some newcomers deceived by a few wetter than normal years and high grain prices, tore up millions of acres of prairie grass that held the soil in place and when the rains diminished the winds carried the dust across America to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Dust Bowl is a story of two scourges of the human race:  our sinful nature and our ignorance.  We are greedy.  We do not consider the long term consequences of our actions because we are only interested in our immediate gratification.  We are ignorant.  We are so lacking in our knowledge of our world and many times we take actions that have disastrous consequences.  We have the option of addressing both of these human failings.  The question is whether we will do so.


[1]   Timothy Egan, The Worst Hard Time, Boston:  A Mariner Book,
Roughton Mifflin Company, 2006.

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