Tag Archives: timothy egan

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

the worst hard timePaperback: 340 pages

Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (September 1, 2006)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0618773479

ISBN-13: 978-0618773473

Review by g emil reutter


Timothy Egan brings us into the heart of the greatest man made environmental disaster of the last century in a conversational style with stories of the people who stayed, survived and died in the American Dust Bowl. Egan chronicles the beginning with tales of Bison and Native Americans, of cowboys in the Great Plains of the United States. In the early 1900’s this was the last frontier in the lower 48 states and the government and railroads, speculators and con-men wanted people to come west and farm. There were parcels for sale, for claim, towns sprung up overnight. All that fed upon the great grasslands were driven out as the sod was turned over and crops planted. People looking for an opportunity for a new start from the east coast and from Europe flooded the area and soon almost the entire grasslands were turned over. The United States became the biggest producer of wheat in the history of the world and as the economic depression expanded, wheat sat at railroad stations rotting in the scorching summer heat and subzero winter. There was little to no rain, the constant wind began to blow topsoil across the plains in large storms so intense that people standing next to each other could not see the other person. The wind storms rained dried out top soil upon the land, there was an explosion of insects, great swarms of grasshoppers eating any green that was left, and the landscape became colorless. Cows and horses were pelted by dried out top soil that crusted their eyes and filled their lungs, cows produced milk darkened with the color of dirt.

Egan brings us the stories of those who stayed, in the five state area that became known as the Dust Bowl. They lived among the exploding population of jack rabbits and insects, lived in homes dug into the dirt of the plains and wood frame houses that filled with dust on a daily basis. Storms so violent that school house windows were blown out. The people in the dugouts would shovel all day to keep the dust from filling their small homes in the ground, tape windows and doors only to find the dust filling the homes. The particles so small that face masks did not work, their lungs, their digestive systems filled with dust, their eyes crusted in dirt. Egan chronicles the great dust storms so intense that one traveled east covering the major cities of the mid-west and east coast with dust into the great Atlantic Ocean.

The farmers continued to attempt to grow crops, only to see them destroyed by the dust or in winter the large mud balls falling from the sky when it snowed. In the heart of the depression when the people in the cities were starving, the price of wheat dropped and those who had a harvest of any kind watched the wheat rot at railroad stations, never shipped east. It wasn’t until Franklin Roosevelt took action to pay farmers to stop planting, bought off the battered livestock and sent in the Conservation Corps to reclaim the land that hope came back to the plains and to the nation.

Egan pulls no punches in how the railroads and corporations took advantage of people looking for opportunity to destroy the grasslands that held the top soil in place. As a result of an eight year drought, the dried out top soil filled the sky in harsh winds that battered the plains, dust clouds 10,000 feet in the sky.  The clouds described as rolling mountains. He chronicles those who survived the harshness of it all, those who died from “dust pneumonia” and in detail explains it was all man made.

The Worst Hard Time is a must read for those concerned about current environmental issues and for those who desire to learn the history of the great American Dust Bowl. An event caused by greed, over farming and natures revenge.


You can check out the book here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Worst-Hard-Time-Survived/dp/0618773479


15648469158_fde0487b43_o-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA) https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/