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The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl Paperback – 1 Sep 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (1 Sept. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618773479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618773473
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.3 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 67,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

The Worst Hard Time 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 in the darkest years of the Depression. Full description

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First Sentence
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. Read the first page
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER on 31 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback
Timothy Egan relates that it was a son of Kansas, Roy Emerson Stryker, who came up with the idea of creating a record of American decay for the files of the Farm Security Administration, and "...the government photo unit proved to be one of the lasting and most popular contributions of the New Deal..." Americans familiar with their history have the images taken by Walter Evans and Dorothea Lange during the Great Depression as part of their cultural baggage, and Egan expands that to the work of Arthur Rothstein, and others, who were just out of college, and told to stay in the "field", and get to know the people. The images of the immense ecological disaster that was dubbed "the Dust Bowl" are not properly honored with even the word "haunting."

Egan has written a magnificent, heart-breaking history of the "the Dust Bowl" area during the `30's. Much of the specific history was new to me, and thus confirmed Truman's dictum that there is nothing new in the world except the history that you did not know. I had recently re-read Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath which Egan briefly touches upon, pointing out correctly that Tom Joad and his family came from eastern Oklahoma, whereas the true dust bowl encompassed only western Oklahoma. I felt Egan's one map, outlining where the area of the dust bowl was, most illuminating. Both Steinbeck's and Egan's books are damning indictments of so-called "market forces" unleashed without an overall structure of prudent rules set by society, as administered by the government.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Asphodelia TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 Nov. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't know about you, but I knew very little about the Dust Bowl before reading this book. I didn't know that the dust storms had been the consequence of a disastrous combination of prolonged drought and soil erosion caused by reckless farming. Timothy Egan's tells the story of how it all started and how how it was allowed to happen through survivors' testimonies, made personal by the presence of great real-life `characters' - the town magnate, the school teacher, the cowboy and many more. The subject matter is heavy going but Egan turned it into a compelling read.

It is worth noting that this is the book upon which Ken Burns' documentary Ken Burns - The Dust Bowl [Region 2 UK Version] [DVD] is based. If you are planning to watch the DVD too, it's worth reading the book first and treat the DVD as a companion to it rather than the other way around. Otherwise your reading experience will be somewhat spoiled by knowing in advance the fate of those people, who survived, who left, who made it, who gave up. `The Worst Hard Time' isn't a novel, but it certainly makes you care for its protagonists.

It's hard to believe that the Dust Bowl was one of the biggest man-made environmental catastrophes of modern times; and it's even harder to believe that it's no longer talked about. This book should be a compulsory reading for all politicians who still consider the earth's resources as a commodity to be plundered and exploited in the name of human greed.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Paul on 5 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
Through the 1920's, a farmer on the Great Plains could easily make a fortune compared to a factory worker in the city. Everything changed in the 30's for not only did the 30's bring The Great Depression it also brought drought. With the Depression, crop prices plummeted. With no flow of money there was no market to sell wheat. Farmers found that the money they could get for their wheat, when they could find a buyer, was not enough to pay the cost of growing the wheat. As their savings disappeared in failing banks and mortgages came due, the rain stopped. In the long term drought is common on the Plains but farmers had been fooled by fifteen years of wet weather. The crops died, the animals died, and the winds came.

Without the native grasses to hold the dried, cracked soil to the ground the dust storms started. It became the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history. The Great Plains turned into a desert of deadly dust storms. The movie "The Grapes of Wrath" tells the story of one fictional family that fled the dust storms. The book, "The Worst Hard Time" by Timothy Egan tells the story of those who stayed. Egan traveled through the Plains interviewing those who lived through the Dust Bowl era and their stories as told by Egan are unforgettable. This is the story of Ike Osteen who grew up in a dugout on the prairie and lived through hundreds of dust storms. This is the story of Jeanne Clark whose lungs were scarred from the dust pneumonia that nearly killed her when she was just a child. This is the story of Melt White whose father was a cowboy on one of the largest ranches in the world and watched the Plains turn to dust.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brilliant book ,and goes into great detail ,especially with the diaries of those who suffered . About a people who went to new lands in the hope of making a new and fresh start . But with a lack of farming knowledge of the area ,,some greed , ending up in a man made disaster .Native American Indians who had been thrown off their lands ,after another broken treaty ,had managed this land for thousands of years ,and knew the weather and natural cycles and were able to adapt .The knew breed of farmer was doomed ,once the first sod was turned over ,and on top of this greed set in with a lot of them ,when the Government encouraged them to grow as much grain as possible during the first world war . When things went belly up ,after borrowing from banks for machinery ,cars, houses, etc, disaster followed with the Dust Bowl of the 30's .People couldn't pay back ,,banks collapsed all over the area ,and evictions . It seems we still haven't learnt from the past ,with banks collapsing and evictions all over and no respect for nature . A book ,very well written ,with food for thought ..
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