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

by Timothy Egan

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Title:The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
Authors:Timothy Egan
Info:Mariner Books (2006), Edition: 1St Edition, Paperback, 340 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:history, america

Work details

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan (2006)

  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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The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived The Great American Dust Bowl, a non-fiction written by Timothy Egan, reveals the traumatic history that millions of Americans suffered through throughout the 1930’s. After the inception of the Great Depression, there was no money, no rain, and most importantly, no hope; Americans began to lack confidence that the county could recover from the worst market crash in all of U.S. history. In addition to the country’s bankruptcy, farmer’s began to lose their farms and source of income because they couldn’t produce any crops due to an incredible drought with treacherous dust storms. The author’s intention is to reveal the reality of the harsh conditions that Americans endured during the Great American Dust Bowl. There were many aspects of this book that I liked. For instance, the book follows the events in the lives of several families. I found myself becoming attached to certain characters, especially to Hazel Lucas. The author used an appropriate amount of character development in order to engross the audience and compel them to continue to read further. The facts that were used were intriguing and truly showed the hardships that farmers faced when they had to leave their homesteads in order to survive another day. The Worst Hard Time has the ability to transport its audience to No Man’s Land in the middle of July during 1932 due to its emotional effect, but it was a challenging book to read because of how depressing its topic was. Reading about how several thousand Americans suffocated or starved to death is not a light subject, especially when a book over 300 pages long rarely has a positive event happen. However, the book is nonfiction, there is no way to sugar coat the gruesome history of The Great Depression. I would have liked it if there was more interaction with the characters and if it was strewn across separate areas in the storyline. I found it confusing when a character’s life would appear in one chapter, disappear, and then reappear several chapters later. Overall, The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived The Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan was one of the most informing books I have read. It was stimulating and it compelled me to read on with every page. Although it is long and often emotionally difficult to read, I liked the author's style of writing. I would definitely recommend this book to a peer wanting to learn about the Great American Dust Bowl.
  KatherineMaiaMP3 | Oct 7, 2015 |
I have seen Ken Burns’ Dust Bowl Documentary on PBS which was quite fascinating so when this was picked for book club I was very interested in reading this book. I found that it put a face on the stories as we followed a few families through the lush beginnings to the terrible endings. I can’t even imagine looking up and seeing a 12,000 foot wall of dirt headed right towards you.

These people were made of stronger stuff than I or probably anyone living today, and that is scary because this could easily happen again. I can’t imagine living in a dugout, or the tar paper shacks which were supposed to be just temporary until the crops paid off but that was where they were still living when the worst of the dust and drought hit. To be living literally in a hole in the ground with your children while dirt so thick swirls around and in your “home” and the poor babies breathing in this dirt, my heart just broke for these people.

I did have a favorite family and that was Bam White’s family this man fought and fought even when there was nothing to fight for. I also thought Hazel Shaw was pretty amazing after everything she went through she still wanted to feel like everything was okay and for her that meant wearing her white gloves every time she put them on I felt like they were her fighting gloves with these on I know I can make it.

All of these people just looking to make a living and provide for their families and things went so horribly wrong, honestly that any of them survived is a tribute to them. I felt so bad that even before the worst happened so many were swindled not only by the banks but by the land dealers there was a lot of corruption that was for sure.

I was also fascinated with this Governor Alfalfa Bill Murray, what a character my goodness some of the things that came out of his mouth wowza I can’t imagine in this social media age what people would say about him. His racism was awful.

Now for the narration, Patrick Lawlor’s narration was very well done it was a semi straight read but yet with emotion, you could tell he enjoyed telling this story and read it like a storyteller which I appreciated I was glad he didn’t do any accents of these immigrants because I think that would have distracted me from the telling. There were a few accents but they were people that needed it I think that Alfalfa Bill saying his three C’s it needed a slight accent.

This was an awful time in our nation’s history between the depression, the dust storms, the drought and unemployment these people lived through some of the toughest times we’ve seen the ones that survived came through tougher than we could ever be. And we should all hope that it never happens again and thank Hugh Bennett for starting Soil Conservation Districts because without these programs like CRP (planting fields to native grass for so many years to revive the soil) it would have already happened again. Soil is not indestructible and people need to remember that. ( )
  susiesharp | Sep 1, 2015 |
This book was a very good account of the Dust Bowl, and the families that chose to stay in the region during that time. The book was well researched and very readable. I don't think I really had any concept of how horrible the Dust Bowl was, and many of the accounts were very sad to read.

The book became just a bit too much for me. I loved it at the beginning, it was so informative and interesting. Towards the middle of the book, I just felt a little overwhelmed by continually reading different stories about how much dust was in people's houses and how much topsoil was picked up in the storms, how dry it was, and how deep fence posts were buried, etc... it just became too much.

If you are looking for a good history of the Dust Bowl, this is worth a read. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
My family lived this story so I may be a little bit prejudiced toward it. This is a history of people who lived through the Dust Bowl and my family, grandparents and mom, did just that. My mother owns the book but hasn't been able to read it yet because it is too painful. If you aren't familiar with this episode of American history, this was the 30's when the land literally blew away. The farming that had been done had ripped away the centuries old grasses and left the topsoil exposed to the never-ending wind. Then the rains stopped for about 6 years. It was a brutal time and the majority of people who lived in the Dust Bowl moved away. My grandparents stayed and kept their farm through it all. My mom was born in 1934 in a dugout so this history is my family's history.

Timothy Egan did his research well. He has first-hand accounts from many who are my mom's age and older who distinctly remember the Black Dusters coming through town and blocking out the sun. He ties the stories together well. His creation of the atmosphere of the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles is masterful. I've spent a lot of time there and he describes it beautifully. I think he is very fair in explaining why the Dust Bowl happened and who was to blame. He doesn't vilify the farmers as some have though they do take blame. They didn't know any better and they were told that they were doing the right thing. He shows the progression of the problem clearly. He does vilify the ones who deserve it, the land speculators. He does an outstanding job of showing the determination and fortitude of the settlers.

Settling the frontier sounds like something that happened 150 years ago but this frontier was being settled in my mom's lifetime and this book is an excellent history of how that part of the Great Plains developed. Some people won't like his story-telling style. It's not linear. He goes back and forth between families and usually has to go back a few years each time he changes families but it's not a hard style to read. For a non-fiction book, this was as compelling as any fictional story I've read lately. I couldn't put it down. ( )
  Mrsbaty | May 11, 2015 |
The Dust Bowl was both a great ecological and a great human disaster and Tim Egan presents each narrative well. Human action--the quest for short-term profit--proved once again to lead to self-destruction. The lesson, alas, is one that has yet to be learned. ( )
  kvrfan | Apr 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 131 (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.
First words
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)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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.

(summary from another edition)

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