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The Worst Hard Time

Author : Timothy Egan

Genre : Nonfiction

Timothy has written this award-winning story highlighting the travails of a dozen families during the 1930s, when homesteaders were enticed to settle the prairie, plowed up the prairie grass that held the topsoil in the area in place through rain and drought, in a great speculative frenzy to make money in an unsustainable wheat market. Since my husband, Stan’s family left Batesville, Arkansas for the Panhandle of Texas, before that time, I was interested to know their reasons, which was probably free land.

The Worst Hard Time documents how the greatest grassland in the world was turned inside out, how the crust blew away, raged up in the sky and showered down a suffocating blackness off and on for most of a decade. In parts of Nebrasks, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas the land convulsed in a way that had never been seen before, and it did so at a time when one our of every four adults was out of work. In 1909, Congress tried to induce settlement in the western half of the Great Plains with a homestead act that doubled the amount of land a person could prove-up and own to 320 acres. This was a desperate move, promoted by railroad companies and prairie state senators, to get people to inhabit a place that had never held anything more than a few native hunting camps and some thirteenth-century Indian villages.

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