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

by Timothy Egan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,2011652,479 (4.17)494
  1. 50
    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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» See also 494 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 164 (next | show all)
The lessons of this book are simple and are rules we should know by now, but somehow don't:

1. What goes up must come down, whether wheat prices, home prices or dust.

2. Mortgaging the future in hopes that rule number one no longer applies is not a good idea.

3. You can't fool and you should not mess with Mother Nature.

4. We are really good at deluding ourselves that all the rules no longer apply. ( )
  dasam | Jun 21, 2018 |
The subtitle tells it all: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. It’s not about the people who left the Great Plains in the 1930s, but the two-thirds who stayed. These were not folks who lived high on the hog. Instead, they’re naïve “sod-busters” who were sold a bill of goods by the federal government, greedy bankers, the railroads, and others who were out to make a buck off them.

The author zeroes in on a small patch of the Great Plains – primarily in the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas – and a handful of people. The author’s main sources were interviews with a few survivors and other descendants of survivors. What a horrible picture they painted: a relentless war against dust, often fatal diseases caused by inhaling dirt, and people who were at the very bottom of the economic pile struggling to survive on arid land that had been abused for decades – and should never have been farmed at all.

The Worst Hard Time was a selection of my public library’s non-fiction book discussion group and it engendered one of the liveliest discussions ever – and the group has been meeting for twenty years! Near the end of the discussion, one of the members said that he was waiting for something positive to come out of the book. He got to the epilogue and hoped that there would be something hopeful there. He was disappointed. No hope, no light at the end of the tunnel.

This was a depressing but enlightening book, well written and sourced. Echoes of the 1930s are being heard today! ( )
  NewsieQ | May 23, 2018 |
Recently read "Whose Names Are Unknown" by Sanora Babb, fiction about the same period, people, and struggle with the soil removal caused by uninformed removal of sod. So many of the horrors of life during those years were not new to me, but are described in their full misery. What this book adds is a description of federal government efforts. A decision had to be made whether to try to address the problems or simply evacuate the entire middle of the country. Fascinating -- and incredibly timely given the worsening drought in California and the southwest. Because of its wider range, read this first, but then do move on to the Babb book too. ( )
  abycats | May 11, 2018 |
Reading about the people that struggled through the great American "dust bowl" you come to the realization that strength can become your character when faced with hardship and challenge. The individuals and families that endured the drought and dust storms of the American high plains near the period of the great depression remind us that life itself can be a struggle and there are no guarantees. Dreams and reality intermixed for those who settled and farmed the area seeking to make a better life. ( )
  MikeBiever | Mar 24, 2018 |
I'm very excited to read this! American History Rules!
  MelissaLenhardt | Mar 11, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 164 (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.
added by kthomp25 | editThe New Yorker
 

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Egan, Timothyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Media-, -TantorPublishersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Between the earth and that sky I felt erased, blotted out.
— Willa Cather
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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.

» see all 5 descriptions

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