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The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of…

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great… (2006)

by Timothy Egan

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,0141561,892 (4.16)477
  1. 40
    The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin (lyzadanger)
    lyzadanger: Similar themes: pioneers and farmers facing the wrath of nature in middle America; relatively compelling pop history.
  2. 20
    Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell (vancouverdeb)
    vancouverdeb: A story of immigrant prairie homesteaders in Canada during the 1930's. Tough times.
  3. 10
    Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s by Donald Worster (eromsted)
  4. 10
    Locust: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect That Shaped the American Frontier by Jeffrey A. Lockwood (sjmccreary)
    sjmccreary: another overwhelming hardship for farm families in the plains - also very readable
  5. 00
    Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David R. Montgomery (lbeaumont)
  6. 00
    Harpsong by Rilla Askew (GCPLreader)
  7. 01
    Bad Land: An American Romance by Jonathan Raban (etxgardener, RidgewayGirl)
    etxgardener: If you liked The Worst Hard Time, your love Bad Land which describes the same ezperience in the northern plains.
    RidgewayGirl: A different part of the country, but a similar tale of immigrant farmers and enormous determination.

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Showing 1-5 of 155 (next | show all)
This is a fantastic work of narrative nonfiction that immerses you in the plight of the people caught up in the Dust Bowl. It focuses on a few families and towns in particular, and depicts in graphic detail a dystopian settings in the 1930s. I thought I knew about the dusters and what life was like then--I didn't. I had no idea of the perils of static electricity during that time--killing chickens and cars alike--and the numbers of people that succumbed to dust pneumonia. I think the only criticism I can offer is that I wish the book had more photographs. This is an important book, not simply as a history, but as warning for farmers and politicians about how easy it is to abuse the land. I will be keeping this on my shelf for future reference. ( )
  ladycato | Jul 12, 2017 |
Excellent retelling of the dust bowl era in the late 20s and 30s. It's hard to believe anyone actually stayed through these events, and many did leave. ( )
  bness2 | May 23, 2017 |
This book was hard to put down. By introducing us to people who lived in the area affected by the Dust Bowl we get involved in their stories and want to find out what happens to them. As history, it's brilliantly written. We are introduced to the Great Plains before white contact, when a perfectly balanced ecosystem was in place. In the blink of an eye homesteaders arrived, began farming (read: replacing native grass with wheat and corn)with horse drawn plows and soon with tractors. It was an economic boom I'd never heard about but it sounds like it attracted people like the Gold Rush. 50 years after the first homesteaders arrived, two thirds of the plains were being cultivated and fortunes were being made. Then came drought. Crops failed. With no root structure to stabilize the soil, the winds soon began picking up the loose topsoil. The drought lasted years, during which dust storms got bigger and bigger and much more dangerous. And they were not freak occurances. The book talks about storms that lasted days on end. The dust drifted and piled burying everything from equipment to animals, dust pneumonia became commonplace and took many lives. The storms carried static electricity strong enough to make cars stall out. Driving from one town to another was a dangerous undertaking. Keeping the dust out of anything was impossible -- houses, lungs, the eyes of livestock. The odd times when the weather cooperated and farmers were able to get something green started, swarms of locusts arrived and devoured it to nothing. How these High Plains people found the strength to keep going is a miracle, although many of them had few options of going any place else. FDR was elected at the start of the Dust Bowl and the Federal government provided farmers with both financial relief and direction on a new approach to farming. Over time things improved. I was suprised to learn, however, that there are still parts of this country that have still not recovered from the ecological nightmare we call the Dust Bowl. It's a part of American history most of us know little about. This book makes it real. Interestingly, it places the blame for the Dust Bowl squarely on the shoulders of the farmers who ripped up the land, but at the same time it's a tribute to the people who managed to survive. It truly sounds like it was The Worst Hard Time. ( )
  Eye_Gee | May 8, 2017 |
Pulitzer Prize winning author examines the lives of the people who endured the misery of the Dustbowl in America. A riveting story.
  mcmlsbookbutler | Apr 21, 2017 |
This book is intense. I found it to be fascinating-not only because of my farm roots and love of the land-but as someone concerned for the health of our planet and economy. The Dust Bowl was an American horror story we must never forget. The Worst Hard Time should be required reading in schools everywhere. ( )
  TBoerner | Mar 22, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 155 (next | show all)
The Worst Hard Time," takes the shape of a classic disaster tale. We meet the central characters (the "nesters" who farmed around the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles); dire warnings (against plowing) are voiced but ignored; and then all hell breaks loose. Ten-thousand-foot-high dust storms whip across the landscape, choking people and animals, and eventually laying waste to one of the richest ecosystems on earth.
Racing at 50 miles an hour, the Dust Bowl storms of the 1930's blasted paint off buildings; soil crushed trees, dented cars and drifted into 50-foot dunes. Tsunamis of grasshoppers devoured anything that drought, hail and tornadoes had spared. To the settlers, "it seemed on many days as if a curtain were being drawn across a vast stage at world's end." Families couldn't huddle together for warmth or love: the static electricity would knock them down. Children died of dust pneumonia, and livestock suffocated on dirt, their insides packed with soil. Women hung wet sheets in windows, taped doors and stuffed cracks with rags. None of this really worked. Housecleaning, in this era, was performed with a shovel.

On April 14, 1935, the biggest dust storm on record descended over five states, from the Dakotas to Amarillo, Texas. People standing a few feet apart could not see each other; if they touched, they risked being knocked over by the static electricity that the dust created in the air. The Dust Bowl was the product of reckless, market-driven farming that had so abused the land that, when dry weather came, the wind lifted up millions of acres of topsoil and whipped it around in "black blizzards," which blew as far east as New York. This ecological disaster rapidly disfigured whole communities. Egan's portraits of the families who stayed behind are sobering and far less familiar than those of the "exodusters" who staggered out of the High Plains. He tells of towns depopulated to this day, a mother who watched her baby die of "dust pneumonia," and farmers who gathered tumbleweed as food for their cattle and, eventually, for their children.
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Between the earth and that sky I felt erased, blotted out.
— Willa Cather
To my dad, raised by his widowed mother during the darkest years of the Great Depression, four to a bedroom. Among the many things he picked up from her was this skill: never let the kids see you sweat.
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On those days when the wind stops blowing across the face of the southern plains, the land falls into a silence that scares people in the way that a big house can haunt after the lights go out and no one else is there.
The banks seldom said no. After Congress passed the Federal Farm Loan Act in 1916, every town with a well and a sheriff had itself a farmland bank - an institution - offering forty-year loans at six percent interest... ...If it was hubris, or "tempting fate" as some of the church ladies said, well, the United States government did not see it that way.

How to explain a place where black dirt fell from the sky, where children died from playing outdoors, where rabbits were clubbed to death by adrenaline-primed nesters still wearing their Sunday-school clothes, where grasshoppers descended on weakened fields and ate everything but doorknobs. . . . America was passing this land by. Its day was done.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618773479, Paperback)

The dust storms that terrorized the High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since.
Timothy Egan’s critically acclaimed account rescues this iconic chapter of American history from the shadows in a tour de force of historical reportage. Following a dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, Egan tells of their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black dust blizzards, crop failure, and the death of loved ones. Brilliantly capturing the terrifying drama of catastrophe, Egan does equal justice to the human characters who become his heroes, “the stoic, long-suffering men and women whose lives he opens up with urgency and respect” (New York Times).

In an era that promises ever-greater natural disasters, The Worst Hard Time is “arguably the best nonfiction book yet” (Austin Statesman Journal) on the greatest environmental disaster ever to be visited upon our land and a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of trifling with nature.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:00 -0400)

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Presents an oral history of the dust storms that devastated the Great Plains during the Depression, following several families and their communities in their struggle to persevere despite the devastation.

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