Oklahoma

English: A farmer's son in Cimarron County, Ok...
A farmer’s son in Cimarron County, Oklahoma (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was the time of dust.

We’d gone out West when I was three. Irene was six, and Little Joe wasn’t quite born yet.

While Mom and Pop were out plowin’, Irene told me stories about Boston. I couldn’t remember it, but she said it was a dark, dirty city, all tall buildings and noise and everybody crammed together. You couldn’t see a thing; even the horses had blinders on.

This was a better place. We could breathe and see the big blue sky, and make somethin’ of ourselves.

Once, Irene took me and Little Joe down to the train depot to watch the circus unload. The strong man hoisted the big crates onto the wagon, which was pulled by a zebra. Maybe it was just a white horse striped with shoe-black. The pretty lady who could fit inside a suitcase smiled at Little Joe and blew me a kiss. She winked at Irene and told her to “Come see about the circus in a coupla years; you’d be such a sweetheart under the lights.”

When the pretty lady walked away, a pink ribbon slipped from her hair and Irene snatched it up and hid it in her pocket. She never let me or Little Joe look at it, but once I sneaked it out and it was just like silk.

A Dust Bowl storm approaches Stratford, Texas ...
A Dust Bowl storm approaches Stratford, Texas in 1935. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the winds started comin’, we thought they’d stop, but the devil dust just kept blowin’. It got in our teeth, eyes, everything. It piled up in rusty red drifts against the house. We had to climb out the window to go to church.

We were all coughin’ and Irene had it worst. At night, she’d cough and cough. Mom and Pop couldn’t work the land; all the crops were dyin’. It was hard times. We were all hungry. All we had was cornmeal and hope.

The Red Cross came through with masks, but it was too late for Little Joe and too late for Irene.

I still got that pink ribbon.

Thank you to WordPress for ‘Freshly Pressing’ this and thanks to YOU for reading.

I would love to hear your comments.

Submitted to the Trifecta Writing Challenge, Week 83: 333 words incorporating the third definition of “rusty.”

RUSTY
1: affected by or as if by rust; especially : stiff with or as if with rust
2: inept and slow through lack of practice or old age
3a : of the color rust

– See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/2013/06/trifecta-week-eighty-three.html#sthash.D2jLoYBC.dpuf

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Part of the solution since 1973.

95 thoughts on “Oklahoma

      1. Hi Kylie, I am great, how are you??…we just back from a lovely 2 1/2 week holiday. I should do a post on the location; it was so beautiful. Have been really disconnected from the blogosphere lately, but I still check in once in a while…:)

  1. I love this subject as depressing as it may sound. I find it fascinating and wonder how on earth people lived through such tough times, especially during the depression. You might want to pick up the best book I’ve read on the subject entitled, “The Worst Hard Time” by Timothy Egan.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll read it. I also just discovered there’s a Ken Burns documentary. It is a depressing subject, but I agree it’s fascinating and I’d like to learn more about what, why, and how it happened.

      1. It happened out of greed and bad luck in a nutshell. The greenbelt disappeared during the ’30s because farmers were encouraged to keep on planting even though there was a 10 year draught. That is how we got the dust storms and is why the Native Americans never planted there. It was always reserved for Buffalo.

      2. It happened because of greed and bad luck. US government encouraged farmers to keep on tearing up the plains and planting crops even though there was a 10 year drought. That is where the dust came from and why the Indians never touched it. The plains were always reserved for the buffalo.

  2. Your post caught my attention since I just started reading “Grapes of Wrath”. I decided to read this great work again after reading “Whose Names Are Forgotten” by Sanora Babb which was written at the same time as Strinbeck’s book but not published until 2004. Both books continue to be a compelling read that heighten our awareness of the injustices done to the poor and the importance of generosity to those in need.

    1. Thanks for reading!
      I’ve read several Steinbeck books, but never the Grapes of Wrath. I’ll put both those books on my list.
      Also–good point. We all rely on each other.

  3. I’m fairly new to Ok and its crazy weather, I wish I could’ve read this before last thursday when I, literally, tasted my first dust storm which was not nice but not as terrible as the one in your story. Thank you for sharing this 🙂

            1. Rarasaur got me into it. It’s really fun and inspiring to read all the entries, and has given me the opportunity to dabble and build some confidence. They have 33-word challenges on the weekends, which is a great way to get those creative juices flowing. Head over there!

  4. Hi, lovely short. I think your first commenter said that it was reminiscent of a Steinbeck story. I agree. It reminded me of Grapes of Wrath when the family was forced from their farm… such hard times. I’m looking forward to wandering through the rest of your stories.

    1. Thank you very much Stephanie, and thank you for taking the time to comment. I love comments!
      I want to learn more about this era, and maybe this is crazy, but I feel like there might be a longer story to come. Dare I say book???

  5. Excellent story! We are also touched by many of the stories and events that took place in Oklahoma and have created a protective sticker for iPhones that can be purchased on our site and we will give a portion of the proceeds to help fund the recovery efforts. Every little bit helps and we appreciate all the support we’ve gotten so fa!

    1. Thank you! I didn’t even connect the fact that there were the recent disasters when I wrote this, but that must have been in the back of my mind somewhere. It’s great you’re helping out.

              1. I’m not sure. We didn’t make it that far. Nice thing about having a membership is not feeling like we have to see the whole thing. Scary about the poor elephant with TB, isn’t it? I should donate to the habitat fund. We keep getting requests in the mail.

              2. I should have done that membership thing when my kids were young. I love me some elephants! I remember when Rose Tu was born and went to see her, she was the size of a big lab. SOOOOOO cute!!!!

              3. I grew up in LO. And my ex-husband and I are currently waiting to close on the house I grew up in which he lives in now with our girls (half-time). It’s a weird divorce 🙂

                Did go to LO or Lakeridge.

                I know live just outside of LO off Terwilliger. And you are in SW?

              4. I went to St. Mary’s for about a month a million years ago. I don’t know how old you are but were there any Dooney’s at Central when you were there?

  6. Nicely done. Very evocative of the time. Seeing it through the eyes of the child gave it an extra weight. I love the line, all we had was cornmeal and hope. That says it all.

    1. Hmmmm… we’ve been reading the “Little House” series! I never read them when I was a kid and I’ve been impressed by the books and well they’re written (and how HARD their lives were).

      1. I did read them as a kid – borrowed them from the local library. I’m now wondering if we have copies here or whether I should head to the public library and borrow from there – and how many eyebrows would be raised at a nun browsing the kids’ books!

  7. Living in Arizona for over twenty-five years, I’ve been through many dust storms, none of which compare to the severity of that one. I felt my chest tighten just imagining the dust. This was beautifully written and you made me care for the characters and feel sorrow when his brother and sister didn’t survive.

    1. Thank you, Janna. It must have been such a horrifying time to experience; many people died of pneumonia and malnutrition.
      I’m glad you felt the narrator was male; I originally wrote him that way but then realized the voice could be interpreted either way and decided to leave it like that.

  8. “From Oklahoma City to the Arizona line,
    Dakota and Nebraska to the lazy Rio Grande,
    It fell across our city like a curtain of black rolled down,
    We thought it was our judgement, we thought it was our doom” – Woody Guthrie, 1935

    You brought back an oft forgotten note in recent American history

    1. Thank you, Seb.
      I read up on the Dust Bowl a little bit before writing this post; what a terrifying time. The dust clouds lasted for days and rolled all the way to the East Coast at times.

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