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The Worst Hard Times; Timothy Egan (Chapter summary 1-5)

Emily CoxMrs. Lynn LaippleAP Communication Arts 11 – W13 February 2012

In the book, The Worst Hard Times, written by Timothy Egan, the author depicts the devastating tales of the Dust Bowl. Intense warnings (against plowing the land) are voiced but ignored. The dust bowl, also known as the Dirty Thirties, was caused by a severe drought. On top of that, farmers back then farmed their land without crop rotation. Thus causing the soil to turn to dust. Now winds could easily pick up the dust. Not taken seriously, all hell broke loose. Dust storms whipped across the landscape, choking people and animals, and eventually causing waste to one of the richest places on earth.  To the settlers it seemed on many days that a curtain was being drawn across the vast land. Families couldn’t huddle together for warmth or love because the static electricity would knock them down. Children died of dust pneumonia, and livestock suffocated on dirt. Their insides were packed with soil. Women hung wet sheets in their windows, taped up their doors and stuffed cracks with rags. Unfortunately, none of this really worked. Housecleaning in the thirties, was performed with a shovel. Banks, churches and businesses closed due to the collapse of wall street (the great depression). Food became scarce. They clubbed thousands of rabbits and they poured boiling water on the insects that covered their dug out walls. The dirt was so thick that you could get lost half a block from your own home. There wasn’t even enough oxygen in a shelter to keep a lantern lighted. It was complete hell, and unaware they brought it upon their selves.Leading up to the dust bowl many events took place. World War One took place directly before the dust bowl. During the war, we began to expand to the west. People migrated to the west coast in hopes of new land. Everyone had “The American Dream”. They wanted opportunities and riches. They took long hard trips on foot and by wagon. They offered Pilgrims free train rides to get to no mans land. The government scammed people out of good land. People in trouble went to the plains and no one ever came looking for them. The conditions were very bad. There was extreme weathers, and no one knew what was really on the other side until they got there.The vast lands were not vacant when the settlers moved there. There were Indians who lived off the land. They used the animals, the grass lands, the natural streams, they used everything that nature had to offer. They lived pure, free, and beautifully. The great west, or the plains, was there home. When the settlers decided to live on the land, the realized they would have to take it. They killed thousands and thousands of buffaloes. The buffaloes were the Indians main resource to food, shelter, warmth, every part of their life tied them back to the buffalo. They used their hides for blankets and to make their tee-pees. They used their bones for tools and jewelery. After the settlers had killed off all the buffalo, the Indians starved and froze to death. If that wasn’t bad enough, the settlers fought the Indians and killed them as well. The Indians had no guns, the used bows and arrows. The settlers had them due to industrialization. The settlers forced the Indians away, making them live in camps. The Indians lost their life’s, their land, their way of life, but the settlers got their plains.

The government was very eager to settle this new land, they went to extremes to get people to come out and farm it. They provided transportation and gave the land away. The cowboys tried to warn everyone not to plow the grass lands but of course no one listened. After people had came to the new land, they discovered it was not everything they promised. The soil was no good, and in most cases people were barley farming enough to stay afloat. No trees would grow, no vegetables or fruit. They tried to grow cotton but it was no good as well. The only crop they could grow well was wheat. Everyone was trying to make a living off of the land. Therefore, everyone was growing wheat. Since everyone was growing the wheat, there was a surplus.

Eventually the price of wheat started dropping, and continued to drop drastically. There was way to much wheat, and no-one in America needed it. They began to export the wheat to other countries, because they could use it. We also increased imports, decreasing  the amount of jobs in the U.S.

When the stock market finally crashed, no one had money. When the banks failed you lost all of your money. Hundreds of banks closed their doors, leaving everyone  helpless. Without any money, and wheat not selling, life on the plains was at a new low. America needed to increase the amount of jobs in America, and pump money back into the country. The idea was if we cut back on our imports there would be more for the citizens to do. Other countries got really mad that we withdrew ourselves. So in return, they decreased the amount of wheat they imported from us, thus, less money coming into the U.S.

Farmers did the only thing they knew how to do, they keep turning up the grass lands in hopes that they could farm more crops. Of course they didn’t, and by the time they realized this it was already too late. People didn’t want to give up on the land. Some farmers did not have a choice and they went bankrupt, others just couldn’t take the chaos and stress and abandoned their lands. Eventually farmers found a good use for the surplus of wheat, they burned it in their homes for heat, the only thing they could do with it.

Everyone believed things would get better and because they were already at an all time low. They figured things couldn’t go any worse, but indeed things kept getting worse and worse. Farmers and the new settlers figured it would have to look up somewhere. They were wrong, and they were in for a huge wake up call. Things only kept going down hill. Life was horrible for everyone, even the common man. The dust bowl was one of the worst natural disasters America has ever seen. I pity those that lived through it and in all honesty i don’t understand how they did.


~ by E.Cox on April 10, 2012 .



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