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Farming the Dust Bowl: A First-Hand Account…

Farming the Dust Bowl: A First-Hand Account from Kansas

by Lawrence Svobida

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  1. 00
    The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (nandadevi)
    nandadevi: Svobida´s book movingly describes the conditions in the Dust Bowl (he clung on for six years of crop failures) that the Joad´s left behind in their trek to California.

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This is a first hand account of a farmer who struggled to raise crops in Kansas between 1931 and 1938, an area and time immortalised in Dorothea Lange´s photographs of the Dust Bowl. Svobida wrote this book in 1940, having given up the fight, but reading his story you´d wonder if any of us would have lasted so long against such overwhelming odds. His narrative records, season by season, hopes lifted and then dashed, and his preparations to do it all again, and again, until there was nothing left. It seems the driest of subjects, but he talks passionately about the things that were important to him, wheat and barley and maize, and yields and farm machinery. He talks about his neighbours, and the townsfolk and the Government schemes (and candidly about cheats and cowards as well) and in his quiet calm way lays out the whole of the story before the reader, just as he intended - this is what it was like, so that you know (so that we never forget).

Svobida faced all this alone, having no family in this period, working the farm himself for the most part, always ready to help a neighbour. Once they might have made a film from this story, the sort of role that Tom Hanks would play so well. In a sense nothing happens in this story, but you realize after a long while - it creeps up on you - that the simple persistence of Svobida´s humanity and determination is the extraordinary thing, more so for him making nothing special of it. There´s all sorts of good reasons to get hold of this book and read it, I can´t recommend it too highly. ( )
1 vote nandadevi | May 8, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0700602909, Paperback)

This is a powerful original account of one man's efforts to raise wheat on his farm in Meade County, Kansas, during the 1930s. Lawrence Svobida tells of farmers "fighting in the front-line trenches, putting in crop after crop, year after year, only to see each crop in turn destroyed by the elements." Although not a writer by trade, Svobida undertook to record what he saw and experienced "to help the reader to understand what is taking place in the Great Plains region, and how serious it is." He wrote of the need for better farming methods--the only way, he felt, the destruction could be halted or confined. Well before the principles of an ecological movement were widely embraced, Svobida urged a public acceptance of the "sovereign rights of the states and the nation to regulate the use of land by owners . . .so that it may be conserved as a national resource."

This graphic account of farm life in the Dust Bowl--perhaps the only autobiographical record of Dust Bowl agriculture in existence--was first published in 1941. This new edition contains an introduction by the historian R. Douglas Hurt that not only objectively sets the scene during and after the Dust bowl, but also places the book properly in the growing body of contemporary literature on agriculture and land use. The volume is an important contribution to American agricultural history in general, and the the history of the Depression and of the Great Plains in particular.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:37 -0400)

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