Английский текст «The dust bowl»

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Сегодня в очередной раз выполнял задание по английскому «Страноведение США». Один из текстов назывался «The Dust Bowl».

История достаточно интересная. Правда в учебнике она была дана в несколько урезанном виде, но я нашел полную версию этой статьи, написанной в 1989 году. Речь здесь идет о засухе, следствием которой явились сильнейшие песчаные бури. Действие происходило в южной части Великих Равнин (in the southern portion of the Great Plains). И так читаем, текст не адаптированный, т.е. оригинальный.

The dust bowl; half a century ago, parts of the Great Plains blew away, and the question now is: Could it be happening all over again?

Publication Date: 06/01/1989
Author: Parfit, MichaelCOPYRIGHT 1989 Smithsonian InstitutionHalf a century ago, parts of the Great Plains blew away, and the question now is: Could it be happening all over again?

It is like remembering an assassination. Anyone who was alive then in Cimarron County, Oklahoma, remembers where he or she was on the afternoon of April 14, 1935. Gordon Folkers was helping his mother with the chickens. Lloyd French was walking a team of four horses west of Kenton, at the western edge of Cimarron County. A group of people from Boilse City were driving out of town, taking the body of Mrs. James Lucas to Texhoma for burial. Jerry Shannon, who was 7, was outside the Santa Fe Railroad building in Felt, in the southwest corner of the county.The day was sunny and calm. «I remember how still it was,» jerry Shannon says. Then the storm came, rolling down from the north like a tidal wave of earth. Birds fled ahead of it across the sky. People looked up. Some took photographs. Some prayed. To Lloyd French, looking out at Oklahoma’s highest point, Black Mesa, it was like a curtain falling on a vast stage. He grabbed a horse’s bit in each hand and hung on.The worst day in a terrible decade»You could see it a-comin’, » Shannon remembers. «From the north, here it came, just a whole boil, roll and boil.» The cloud crashed over Kenton, over Felt, over the funeral procession. With a rush the day became darker than night. Car ignitions shorted out. Windmills, brushed by wind and dust, became charged with electricity. People were lost a few hundred feet from home. When the brown cloud hit Felt and blacked out the sun, a neighbor woman knelt near Shannon on top of a fence that was drifted in with dust like dark snow. «She was on the top board, praying,» he remembers. «She thought the end of time had arose.»

Later, April 14, the worst day in a terrible decade, would be called Black Sunday. Out of it grew another, more lasting phrase. The next day the Evening Star in Washington, D.C. carried a story by a reporter named Robert Geiger, who wrote: «Three little words-achingly familiar on a Western farmer’s tongue -rule life in the dust bowl of the continent-‘if it rains.’ » The most memorable of his words however, were two. Geiger had given the place and time a name: Dust Bowl.

The region is not a bowl. Although drought and low prices hurt farmers across America, historians agree that the Dust Bowl itself was restricted to a 97-million acre piece of high, level land in the southern portion of the Great Plains. It included parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. From the air, this part of the Great Plains looks terribly vulnerable to the storms that sweep down from the Rocky Mountains to the west. The towns of the Dust Bowl cling to the land like so many fleas on the head of a bald man in an open car, faking nonchalance, daring the wind.

Boise City, Oklahoma, is in the middle of it. Built in the center of Cimarron County, which is in the heart of the five-state area covered by the worst of the Dust Bowl, Boise City is one of the highest, most vulnerable of these brave collections of school buildings, grain elevators and stores. The Dust Bowl is the central feature of memory here, like an earthquake or a revolution. In the heart of this country there is no escaping the hot, dry breath of history.

When I visited Cimarron County recently to talk to the survivors of that decade, many were reluctant to take their memories back to that time. But everyone there, young and old, knew, hearing just those two words, exactly what I was talking about. The Dust Bowl has become a myth and a symbol in the culture of 20th-century America.

There are many theories about the causes of the Dust Bowl, beyond the obvious drought and wind; historians debate whether it was created mostly by climate, or whether it was a man-made ecological disaster caused by capitalism’s shortsighted enthusiasm for profit. But certainly one of the things that made it so painful was the great optimism and hope that ran through the region right up to the moment of disaster.

At the turn of the century, Cimarron County-like the rest of the Great Plains-looked as if flush times had arrived. The prairie was green; rain fell in abundance. «Everywhere west of the Mississippi looked good,» says Lloyd French, who was born in Cimarron County in 1912. «But this country looked a little better.» It was Wheat Heaven.

Farmers poured into the area. The boom, which fluctuated with the price of wheat, hit a peak during the late 1920s. In and around Cimarron County you could put 25 percent down on grassland that cost as little as $15 an acre. You could «break it out» of its grassy prison with a plow, hope to raise 20 bushels of wheat per acre, sell each bushel for a dollar and pay off the land in a single season. If people were aware of the region’s history of regular drought and dust, they had ways of explaining why it wouldn’t happen again. Cultivation of the land, some said, would change the climate and bring more rain. That suited the farmers, who wanted dollar wheat far more than they wanted grass. «Everything went wheat,» remembers Ronald Fronk, «and the farmers went bananas.»

«They broke out every bit of land»

Fronk lived in Beaver County, Oklahoma, east of Cimarron. All the counties of the Dust Bowl were inundated with farmers. «They broke out every bit of land they could,» he says. Some came to build and live, but some were visitors who were called «suitcase farmers.» They came for the weeks of planting and harvesting, but spent the balance of their time living and working elsewhere. They were druggists, bankers and teachers, and they came from as far away as Chicago and the East Coast. Others bought land and employed tenants to work it. People lived on almost every section in sod buildings, dugouts,» clapboard houses or houses ordered from Sears, Roebuck. There was employment for the whole family-man, woman and child. Lloyd French got started at the age of 9. «I broke out a lot of this country myself,» he recalls. «It plowed easy. You’d plow over a piece of ground and look back-and about one-third of the grass was still looking at you, but you’d tore it up. You didn’t have to farm too good because we had the moisture.»

The ground was broken, the rain fell and the wheat came up. In the Texas Panhandle, just south of Cimarron County, about 82,000 acres were planted in wheat in 1909; by 1929 the acreage was nearly 2 million.

This enormous change in the land’s surface was made possible largely by the mass production of tractors, and with typical human willingness to blame machines for our mistakes, the tractor has become a leading Dust Bowl villain. They were «snubnosed monsters,» John Steinbeck wrote in The Grapes of Wrath, raising the dust and sticking their snouts into it.» In 1929, R. P. Crabtree, a young man who farmed in Texas on the edge of Cimarron County, bought his first tractor, a Farmall. It had lugged steel wheels four feet high, and it used much of its power just hauling itself around. «It was supposed to equal six head of horses,» Crabtree tells me, the disappointment still in his voice. «It worked,» he says, kind of poorly. Couldn’t pull much plow.»

What it pulled, poorly or not, was made of disks on a beam and was called a one-way plow. To some historians this plow was as important a factor in the creation of the Dust Bowl as the machine that pulled it. «It just scratched the top of the soil,» Fronk says. «It made the soil into powder.» This was not unwanted. Another theory-as credible as the idea that plowing brought rain-was a technique of trying to keep moisture in the ground by using «dust mulch,» which meant leaving a fine powder of soil on top of a hard-packed base. That’s just what the one-way plow did.

All this voodoo agriculture seemed to work. The rain fell and the wheat came up. Homesteaders, tenants and suitcase farmers alike hauled it to the grain elevators in Boise City and a hundred towns all over the Plains, took a dollar a bushel and bought more tractors. «For a few years at least,» historian Donald Worster wrote recently, «they made the region say money instead of grass.»

By 1930 the voice of grass was just a whisper: in five years, more than five million acres of the Plains had been plowed. «For that time,» says Lloyd French, there was money floating everywhere. People didn’t lay a lot of that back they ought to have laid back.»

The rain fell; the wheat grew. In the summer of 1931 it poured forth in a great golden flood from all the fields of the Great Plains. You didn’t harvest just 20 bushels an acre; you got 50. There weren’t enough barns, elevators, railroad cars or ovens to hold it all.

That was the great moment. Then the blows started to fall. The first was price. Wall Street had crashed and there was so much wheat in the West that there weren’t enough people to buy it. The price wasn’t $1 a bushel anymore; it was 25 cents.

The farmers call it «drouth»

Then the rain stopped. It was replaced by an inexorable dryness that people in Cimarron County, as if their tongues are still dry, call «drouth.» In 1932 the county’s total rainfall was nearly 12 inches. In 1933 it was about 15. In 1934 it was barely 9. In 1935 and 36 it averaged about 10. Only once in the decade-1938-did the annual rainfall exceed the 17-inch average. The story was the same elsewhere. During that period 20 states set records for dryness that still stand.

«In 32 there wasn’t much rain,» says Lawrence Powers when I visit his farm north of Boise City. «We had a very short crop. From 33 to 36 we raised nothing.»

The low wheat prices and yields of 1932 drove many of the suitcase farmers and some of the tenants off the land, and vast acreages of one-way-plowed fields lay abandoned, ready to blow. In 1932 the dust first lifted from the fields in clouds; in 1933 it scoured the landscape. At Goodwell, Oklahoma, about 50 miles southeast of Boise City, Panhandle A&M College recorded 70 severe dust storms that year.

There was more than one kind of dust storm. The Kansas Academy of Science called them rectilinear, rotational and ebullitional, and divided those three types into species,» including «sand blows» and «funnel storms.» A Texas meteorologist identified two classes: southwestern and northern. When the wind blew from the southwest, the dust blew high but thin; the storm would sometimes throw dust more than 10,000 feet above the ground, but you could see. The other kind rolled down from the north in low, boiling clouds that were dark enough to black out the sun even more than an eclipse. The people who lived through them had their own names. Jerry Shannon, who is now city manager of Boise City, talks about «black northerns.» In the Boise City News they were «dusters.» Historians wrote about «black blizzards.»

In 1933 the region and the time had not yet been given their name. But the taste of life was already dust. «People would swear that you could put a stopper in a jar,» Powers says with a gentle smile, «and the dust would still get in.» The wry amusement on his face is partly because he has told his stories to younger people so many times, and so few have believed them. To make me understand, he takes me out in back to a big red tractor, removes the air cleaner and shakes it out on the balance weights. «It was just like that,» he says.

The dark, red-brown dust makes soft mounds on the metal. 1 rub some between my fingers. It is silky as talcum powder. A pinch thrown in the air doesn’t fall as sand would; it hangs like dirty mist and drifts away on the breeze. It leaves a smudge on my fingers. When dust this fine covered the land, a walking man kicked up haze as high as his waist; a running rabbit left a trail in the air. It seeped into your dreams: in the morning when you awoke in your home, the only white spot was on the pillow where your head had been.

The dust changed the nature of life. All routines involved its soft, subversive dirtiness. «It is a daily task to unload the leaves of the geraniums and other house plants,» observed Caroline Henderson, an Oklahoma Panhandle farmer, some of whose letters and essays from the Dust Bowl were published in the Atlantic Monthly in the 1930s. «Dust in the beds and in the flour bin, on dishes and walls and windows, in hair and eyes and ears and teeth and throats……»The people I talk to in Cimarron County remember hanging wet blankets across the windows and going to bed with wet cloths across their faces. You would eat out of the pot on the stove because all the dishes were dusty. At Margaret Fronk’s house, guide wires were strung from the house to the barn so the family could still get the milking and feeding done when the air thickened. Dust infiltrated everywhere: people scooped it out of the bathtubs, but no one saw the drifts growing in the attic until the ceiling fell. Jerry Shannon’s father was a section hand who rode the Santa Fe trains into New Mexico, shoveling drifts off the tracks so the train could proceed, and then shoveling the tracks out again on the return trip. The wind scoured its way down into the past; when a freight came to a freshly blown-out slope, the crew would stop the train and get out to look for arrowheads.

The land itself moved capriciously. One day the north side of the barn would be drifted in; the next day the dirt pile would have been swept away. Fences would be buried to the top wire, and next to them yucca plants, called soapweed, would stand nakedly on stilts of their roots. Lawrence Powers remembers the time a fuel dealer’s truck got buried to its axles. The dealer walked to a farm for help. But the farmer, with a strange sort of biblical wisdom, told him to go back to his truck and, lo, the trouble would be no more. By the time the dealer returned, the dry mire had blown away as surely as a nightmare vanquished by the sun.

But in the Dust Bowl there was no awakening. The sun was the nightmare, compounded by the ruined economy. «How did you get along,» I ask Lawrence Powers. That,» he says, with his same gentle smile, «is a damn good question yet.»

Powers’ family sold a few bushels of that grand accumulation of wheat every once in a while to have enough to buy food. And although Powers remembers his parents’ garden being blown away every year, others recall the place they knew as the «truck patch» providing plenty of food to be canned for the winter. Margaret Fronk, of Texas County, remembers carrying endless buckets of water from the windmill to the garden to irrigate, and collecting loads of cow chips, which some called prairie coal, for stove fuel. Many of the people of the Dust Bowl depended on Works Progress Administration jobs and other programs the Roosevelt Administration created to fight the Depression all over the country. By 1939 officials estimated that half of Oklahoma was on relief.

In desperation people turned to shady enterprises, some more grand than others. Some bought eggs on credit at a friendly grocery, then turned around and sold them to a nearby produce store for cash. Some dug old implements out of dust drifts and sold them for scrap iron. «Lots of times stuff maybe shouldn’t have been picked up and sold,» R. P. Crabtree says. And more Cimarron County residents than now admit to it got through those dry, dry years by helping to keep Kansas City speakeasies wet.

«There were so many bootleggers,» Lloyd French recalls, «that they had to wear badges to tell each other apart. They hauled bootleg whiskey as far as St. Louis.» When I drop into the Ford dealership in Boise City and mention my interest in Dust Bowl history, the first story I hear is about the time the deputy sheriff broke open about 20 barrels of mash and got a whole farmyard full of hogs, dogs and chickens reeling drunk.

Livestock, particularly cattle, suffered in the Dust Bowl. Grazed pastures blew out to hardpan almost as readily as one-way-plowed fields. Ranchers collected yucca plants and green tumbleweeds-Russian thistle or feed. Lloyd French used a weed burner to singe the spines off cactus plants so the cattle could eat the succulent branches. One year, he remembers, he used 550 gallons of kerosene just burning spines: «I’d burn all night. Man, as soon as you’d get those stickers off, they’d eat it all.» That wasn’t enough, though. In 1934 the federal government began a program of buying and killing cattle to get them off the range. «Guys would shoot the cattle and they’d drop in their tracks,» says Norma Gene Young, daughter of the then publisher of the Boise City News. «After that, two of the ranchers went out and blew out their brains.»

For many, the only way out was to die or drive away. «While it is true that between 50 and 100 Cimarron County families have moved or contemplate moving,» a Boise City News reporter wrote with desperate optimism two days after Black Sunday, «the whole migration takes on the aspect of a temporary activity.» It wasn’t. The people who left seldom returned. Although Steinbeck got some things wrong in The Grapes of Wrath-the part of Oklahoma where the Joads lived wasn’t in the Dust Bowl at all-it caught the heart of the story. «I remember a fellow name of Cole,» says Jerry Shannon. «He came to our house. He had an old truck. He had everything he owned tied on that truck. His dog was in the front seat with him. I can still see his dog. He told my dad, That’s it. I’m gone.»‘

Shannon can still find the grove of hackberry trees where another emigrant lived, but few of the people who headed for California, Texas or Arkansas left even that much of an impression. A total of 1,642 people-40 percent of the population-abandoned Cimarron County during the 30s. They vanished as silently and completely as the wheat crops of 33, 34 and 35-planted here but never grown.

The people who stayed are proud of their triumph over adversity, though many admit that good fortune may have helped as much as fortitude. Usually it was a combination. Lloyd French happened to have an irrigated piece of bottomland, and managed to raise hay on it. He irrigated throughout the nights, sitting on the edge of the ditch and sleeping. In 1935 he sold 50 tons of hay to the federal government at $20 a ton to feed the horses on a road project. That,» he says, «was more money than in the whole USA.» Lawrence Powers’ father insisted every year on planting a crop, whether there was much hope for rain or not. One day when he was out looking at the sad efforts of his field, a small cloud appeared overhead, slowly grew larger and finally poured down rain, practically on his field alone. «He always said,» Lawrence’s wife, Anna, remembers, «‘That’s what made my crop.»‘

Some got by on humor. Historian R. Douglas Hurt writes that when «one man was hit on the head by a raindrop, he was so overcome that two buckets of sand had to be thrown in his face to revive him.» When a traveler stopped at a restaurant, Hurt continues, he ordered a boiled egg, cracked it open and found it full of dust; he took a dozen of those eggs home and put them under a hen. They hatched ten mud-hens and two sandhill cranes.

People also told the story, reported by historian Donald Worster, of a motorist who saw a ten-gallon hat on a dust drift. He picked it up and found a head under it. «Can I give you a ride to town?» the motorist asked. «Thanks, but I’ll make it on my own,» the head answered. «I’m on a horse.»

In Boise City, a special wind gauge Much of the humor was, well, gritty. Even now a wind gauge at the Boise City Body Shop consists of a chain wrapped around a 35-pound rock. A newspaper editor in the Texas Panhandle organized a Last Man’s Club, open to those who pledged to be the last to leave. It was formed the day after Black Sunday. The editor exhorted his readers: «Grab a root and growl.»

Most of those who stayed simply grabbed the root and lived on hope; they seldom complained. «My folks kept their troubles pretty much to themselves,» Lawrence Powers tells me. Anna is compelled to add: «They were tough-that’s what they were.»

But sometimes a cry escaped the parched lips of even the toughest people of Cimarron County. A writer who called himself Slats and published a wry column titled Driftwood» in the Boise City News finally let himself go a few days after the black northern of April 14, 1935. It was the universal cry of job. «Why [is it],» he wrote, «when we ask so little of life sometimes and conduct ourselves to the best of our ability, we should be punished so severely.»

The pain of unjust loss ran through the country like the wind. Impossible it seems,» wrote Caroline Henderson, «not to grieve that the work of our hands should prove so perishable.»

It was this pain, this incomprehensible combination of dust, poverty, desperation and courage that transcended its time and became a part of the theme of America: hard times and survival. This was a difficult image for the Dust Bowl states to accept. Throughout the region, officials and newspapers denied what was happening all around them. Oklahoma preferred to be the home of Will Rogers, the «American Prometheus,» historian W Richard Fossey writes, rather than that of Woodie Guthrie, the master of songs of dust and suffering. But it was the courage both of the migrants and of those who remained that captured the American imagination. Steinbeck ennobled the Okies; photographers from the Farm Security Administration made the dust-ravaged faces of the farmers waiting for rain part of the country’s permanent image of heroism.

The most famous Dust Bowl photograph (p. 57) was taken in Cimarron County by Arthur Rothstein, who visited Arthur Coble’s homestead near Boise City in April 1936. «We found Mr. Coble working,» Rothstein said years later, «digging out fenceposts … trying to get some water to a few forlorn cows … we could see that the wind was going to blow harder and harder, and great clouds of dust were coming up everywhere. So, I said goodbye to Mr. Coble and to the boys, and the county agent and I went back to the car. 1 was about to get into my car when I turned to wave to them. And I looked and saw this man bending into the wind, with one of the boys in front of him and another one behind him, and great swirls of sand all around, which made the sky and the earth become one. And 1 said, What a picture this is!’ And I just picked up my camera and went click.’ » It was the lasting image of the Dust Bowl. A man and two children, the man’s face turned with care toward his son; the child behind him shielding his eyes. The dust was blowing, but the people leaned into it and did not give way.

Late in my visit to the heart of the Dust Bowl I journey to the Coble homestead with Jerry Shannon. We drive through mile after mile of fields of cut stubble and parched winter wheat-this year, too, moisture is scarce. The land is desolate. Here and there are patches of dry trees where homesteads used to be. Windmills stand on the horizon like sentinels on a battlefield of the past. Old fences have been replaced by low electric wires, which are so hard to see it looks as if the occasional herds of cattle drifted through the landscape have been turned loose forever. For mile after mile, there are no inhabitants. Where people once lived on every quarter-section, and children chased tumbleweeds, no one now lives.

At the Coble homestead the house has blown down. A windmill still stands, but on new metal legs. Shannon is delighted to find the foundation of an old two-holer outhouse he remembers using-the wooden seat is growing splinters in the weeds nearby. A cedar-post fence corrals a herd of hogweed next to the collapsed building. Shannon peers into the ruin, looking at the cardboard tacked on a wall for insulation. He picks up a pointed boot that lies by the door. The people of Boise City like to say that if you wear out a pair of shoes in Cimarron County you’ll never leave. This boot is worn out and abandoned. The three people in Rothstein’s photograph are dead.

«Hard tellin’ whose boot this is,» Shannon says. He turns it over. Dust pours out and drifts away in the wind. We drive away along the empty roads.

Few of the people who left ever returned to Cimarron County, but the rain came back at the end of the decade. In 1941, Lawrence Powers’ father raised wheat and repaid his debts. The land again became green. But dust storms returned during the drought of the early 50s and wind excavated history once more; only this time the past unearthed by the storms was the lug marks of the old tractors of the 20s, tracks that had lain hardening beneath the dirt like the dinosaur footprints that march across the landscape in the western part of Cimarron County.

What about the greenhouse effect?

If there is general agreement today that the Dust Bowl was caused by a combination of climatic and human factors, there is also growing concern about yet another phenomenon. This is the apparent overheating of the Earth’s atmosphere due mainly to man-made pollutants. The phrase used to describe it is the greenhouse effect.» The worry is that it may even now be operating to create another desert in the nation’s breadbasket, and far beyond. Climatologists disagree about this. The farmers of Cimarron County know, for their part, that the world doesn’t have to turn into a greenhouse to bring the dryness back. With the winds again carrying the fine grit through the streets of Boise City, the old phrase «Dust Bowl» hangs in the Western air, where people try to shoot it down.

Tractors today can dig the soil deeper, they say, to bring up clods and keep the topsoil from blowing off. Grassland restoration programs will keep more land unplowed. «Farm Ugly» and «Low Till» campaigns will leave stubble and vegetation on cultivated land. But the optimism sometimes has a familiar, hollow sound. «I don’t believe there will be another Dust Bowl as we knew it,» Jerry Shannon says, «because our farming practices are as close to perfect as you can get.»

The Dust Bowl is like the hardened tracks of tractors and dinosaurs: it’s now part of the landscape. It remains marked in memory, like the death of a great king, a dreamer or a dream; it forever saddens and enlightens the time that follows. What we learned from it and whether something like it will ever come again may always be debated, but there is one simple truth about the years of black skies, depression and despair that filled the 1930s. Gordon Folkers caught it for his generation in Boise City and for all the Dust Bowl in an essay he wrote for a forthcoming book on Cimarron County history: «I guess the best part of the good old days’ is that they are gone.»

COPYRIGHT 1989 Smithsonian Institution

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