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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… (original 2006; edition 2006)

by Timothy Egan

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2,417None2,552 (4.19)408
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

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The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan (2006)

1930s (70) 20th century (39) agriculture (20) America (19) American (17) American History (150) audio (12) book club (19) depression (67) disaster (14) drought (25) Dust Bowl (282) ebook (14) ecology (17) environment (19) farming (23) Great Depression (167) Great Plains (46) history (412) Kansas (26) Kindle (23) National Book Award (33) non-fiction (314) Oklahoma (56) read (23) Texas (33) to-read (62) US History (62) USA (58) wishlist (18)
  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. 00
    Harpsong by Rilla Askew (GCPLreader)
  5. 00
    Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David R. Montgomery (lbeaumont)
  6. 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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» See also 408 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 116 (next | show all)
An expose of the dust storms in the 1930's America, written from interviews of the survivors. That is what caught my eye on this book. If the author interviewed survivors though, he rewrote their words and wove them into a narrative with his own agenda. I have the audio version, and the narrator, Patrick Lawlor, did a great job.

This book revealed many aspects of the Dust Bowl which I had not known, and gave a personal story to it. I did not know that static electricity could kill a garden. There was a point, about a third of the way through, when I considered quitting on this book. The heartbreak and relentless descriptions of devastation were very depressing, but I decided if those people could live through it, I could listen to it. The author took the storyline of quite a few people and places and wove them together trying to show the bigger picture through the lives of individuals.

The repetition of the dust storms, the devastation, the dryness, and poverty became dreary and difficult to keep track of what year was being spoken of. I wish that the author had spent a bit more time on the recovery efforts and how the area became livable again. It seemed at the end that the author had an agenda of his own to emphasize that people should not be there in that area. I had to wonder when some of the actual journal entries given did not match his description of the devastation. All in all I am glad to have read this, it provided a lot of information in a personal and touching way. ( )
1 vote MrsLee | Mar 8, 2014 |
3.75 stars.

This book paints a picture of some of the Southern States affected by the Dirty Thirties. The primary focus is on the people of Boise City, Oklahoma and Dalhart, Texas. The book actually recounts the history, beginning a little before the 30’s to give some needed background into how the area was settled after the Native people were kicked off the land.

Wow! It was so much worse than I ever thought. Dust storm, after dust storm, after dust storm, for years! It was so dry that nothing grew, nothing lived. People and their animals ate thistle (that’s all there was); they all breathed in dust and dirt continually, causing many deaths (dust coating their lungs and/or stomach). Egan includes some pictures, as well. The most striking for me are the pictures of “Black Sunday”, the dust storm that blacked out the sun in April 1935. I’ve rated it just under 4 stars, as I didn’t find the beginning part quite as interesting, though as the book goes on, I see why it was necessary to explain that part of the history as well. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jan 17, 2014 |
These are the true stories of the men, women and children who lived through The Dust Bowl years during the 1930's. Many families left that area when crops failed because of drought and dust storms, but this book is about those who stayed.

The author also looks at the causes of the disaster; stripping the land of its natural vegetation and trying to change it into something it could not be. The weather played a factor in it, but in the end, it was a man-made disaster.

It's a story of greed, and of people desperate to make a living and have something of their own, the great American Dream, and those people that took advantage of those families without thinking of the future consequences.

This was a fascinating book, with personal stories of those who lived through it seamlessly woven through the history of the Dust Bowl. It was very hard to put down once I started reading, and I stayed up past my bedtime for at least 3 nights because of that.

I especially liked the stories of Hazel Lucas, who we first meet as a teenage bride teaching in a one room school house, then trying to raise a family and keep her dignity through the awful storms; and Ike Osteen; one of 9 kids raised in a dugout; his goal was to make it to his senior year in high school, often staying in town instead of going home so that he would not miss school because of a dust storm. ( )
  mom2acat | Jan 7, 2014 |
Great book, historical. I am glad I read this book. It is a wonderful book. Doesn't leave you with much hope that we people, God's people, ever learn our lessons. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
Goodness, another depressing book about the Depression. Fascinating account of how people survived - or didn't - during the great sand storms on the plains and how and why the plains became dust bowls. We certainly have things good.

Egan begins by introducing the reader to assorted characters who are followed throughout. Causes of the dust bowl: a bubble of land speculation and wheat over-planting by non-residents, helped to create conditions that made the dust storms almost inevitable. World War I had caused demand for wheat to skyrocket, but soon too much land was in wheat, prices began to fall, more land was planted to make enough money, and the cycle began. Then the drought began. Soon the west was virtually a desert, the buffalo having been destroyed and the prairie completely obliterated. When they were able to get something - anything - to grow, then locusts arrived to eat virtually everything in sight.

The Depression and poverty completely changed the culture: from profligate spending of the Gilded Age to hoarding and mistrust of the banking system. It will be fascinating to see if something similar results from the current economic conditions. It must have been terrifying to struggle in to town to withdraw some money to pay for much needed supplies and food only to discover that the bank has gone out of business, taking with it everything you had. Then to go home and slaughter starving animals because you have no food for them, and then have to decide which of the kids doesn't get to eat. We have no clue today of the suffering engendered by the Depression and Dust Bowl.

My father and mother were born in 1922, but they were fortunate to live in eastern Iowa where my father's father was a dean at a small college. They took many pay cuts and often had to work for nothing, but at least they had some money and a cow and garden. My other grandfather lost his farm in the depression. Around here (in northern Illinois) you could tell which bank had taken over a farm by the color of the barn. One painted the barns white, the other painted them red. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 116 (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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:51 -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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