The Dustbowl Years

Posted By
Elizabeth, United States

I was born in 1923 and grew up during the dust bowl time. Mom, my brother and I lived with my grandparents.
We lived on a farm, which turned out to be the best thing we could have done. As a result, we had beef, pork, chicken, turkeys, mutton and eggs. We were never hungry like lots of folks that lived in small towns nearby. However, we did not have any money. But with cream and egg sales, my folks were able to buy occasional sugar and flour. Our trips to the small town were made about each week, as we could not keep the cream any longer.
When there was a dust storm imminent, the western sky turned a sickly yellow. The sun was blotted out, and a little later we could see a boiling, angry cloud arising on the western horizon. Grandma would call to us all, that there was a dust storm coming. Grandpa would hurry to the barnyard to see that all the livestock was put into barns and sheds.
I remember that I went to try to get the poultry into the henhouse. Mom and my brother were getting in the horses and sheep.
Meanwhile Grandma was hanging any dampened cloth available over the windows, and stuffing the cracks around windows and doors with rags.
When it came mealtime, Grandma would cook, using pots she could keep the lids on to keep out the dust.
The table was set with all the china turned upside down. We turned it upright only when we were served in order not to get too much grit in the food. The dirt was so fine like talcum powder that it filtered into everything. When the storm was over, which sometimes was several days, there were drifts, like snow drifts, but it was all the fine dirt. There was a sifting of dirt over everything in the house. Sweeping the floors took several attempts to get it all out. And all the bedclothes had to be washed.
We kids were kept home from school, and we only went out of the house to water and care for the animals and fowls. We did have two good wells, one for the house, and a windmill for the farmyard. Mom liked to grow flowers, and she hand pumped water every day to keep them alive. After a dust storm, she would go out to the garden and use a broom to try to sweep the dirt away from the plants so they would not be smothered by the dirt. We had only vegetables that we could grow in our garden. During the drouth during and after the dust bowl days, it was hard to get anything to live. One year we had only a few potatoes, and other tough vegetables.
The green beans, however, did bear a good crop. Most of the produce that we could harvest was canned for winter's use. That year we had only meats, some potatoes, and lots of green beans. It took me 10 to 15 years before I could eat green beans again. It was a hard time, especially for anyone living off the farms. And for the farmers, too, because they had no crops (mostly wheat in our area) to sell. We lived along the Kansas, Oklahoma border north of Wakita, Ok. Our farm was north in Kansas along the border road.
A few years after the storms had subsided, the government helped farmers plant "windbreak" trees. Even today in some part of the dust bowl area you will see several rows of trees lining the sides of fields. That and contour farming helped keep the wind from picking up the dust and blowing it away.


  1. Elizabeth
    Thank You so much for sharing some idea of what it was like to live on a farm during those years

    absolutly fascinating

  2. Thanks for sharing. As I read your post, I had a "movie" playing in my head, of what it must have been like to be you as a kid. God Bless you. Thanks again.

  3. Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your Dust Bowl memories. I was searching the internet for information describing the 30's for a book character profile. My character may look a lot like you!