I made my own schoolhouse block, and, in honor of our corn harvest and preparing for a soybean crop, chose a Corn and Beans variation. With the Ken Burns' Dust Bowl series on tv this week, I chose a Northwind block. Mom pointed out to us several places along the fencerows of the farm where the dust that built up in the mid 1930s remains and where volunteer trees grew to now large ones. She said at times the dust was red from land in Kansas and Oklahoma, so unlike the black dirt of Iowa.
Her memories of the Dust Bowl years:
I remember Papa talking about the government ordering all those cattle and hogs to be killed. It seemed such a waste to do that while many people were going hungry. Some of the dust that came to Iowa was the red dust from Kansas and Oklahoma. The Milwaukee railroad went through our land, after the dust storms there were big banks of dirt and dust, just like snow banks. Those banks are still there the little saplings we saw in the thirties and forties are large trees now. There were a lot of prairie flowers along the tracks too.
It was dry and dusty here too, but not as bad as in Oklahoma. Later the grasshoppers came and ate the grain. I think it was in the thirties that they started planting all those big windbreaks in South Dakota to prevent erosion. Hubert Humphrey was a big advocate of that and it did help. Now in the last twenty or thirty years a lot of those windbreaks were destroyed. We saw that in Alaska too, some of the windbreaks were not taken care of and just gone wild.
In North Dakota where they first started mining coal, they did not clean up the area after they removed the coal and that land is full of hills with trees and bushes. But now when the mine is finished, they level the land and plant crops on it. We belonged to the Lyon County REC and our electricity came from those coal mine areas in North Dakota. Dad and I took a couple of bus trips to that area several years ago. It reminded me of the polders in Holland.
‘The Farmers’ Holiday Association’, it was a movement in 1932 – 1934 that got kind of rough in the LeMars and Sioux City area. They even put a noose around a judge’s neck, he was ordering foreclosures on a lot of farmers. I remember hearing about dumping the milk. The Depression was a difficult time. Some people got very desperate. A lot of anxiety in those days. We were poor, and so was everyone else. We felt sorry for the city people. The farmers had cattle, hogs, and chickens to butcher, we canned the meat, because we did not have electricity and freezers. We also had big gardens so we canned a lot of vegetables and applesauce. I remember Mama used a kerosene stove in the summer time to do her canning, cooking and baking. The big stove that used cobs and wood would make the house too hot in the summer.