Christmas Television - ALF's Special Christmas

Tuesday, December 10, 2019 0
Christmas Television - ALF's Special Christmas
ALF's Special Christmas is a Christmas episode of ALF that aired in two parts on December 14, 1987. One major part of the story is about ALF, by circumstance, meeting a sick girl at the hospital. The character in the show (Tiffany) was based on a real person who had leukemia, Tiffany Leigh Smith (another findagrave entry), who died on January 2nd, 1987. The photos on Find A Grave are of the actress who played her (Keri Houlihan) and not the actual Tiffany Leigh Smith.

You can get an excellent deal on the DVD collection of all 4 Seasons of ALF on Amazon by clicking this link

At the end credits of Part 2, the two-part episode is dedicated to Tiffany Leigh Smith and Tom Kyle, who was a technical director of the show. If you haven't seen the episode, the episodes are all-around emotional, without giving spoilers, involving more than one character. It's definitely worth watching though and I would say it is amongst the best Christmas episodes of any show. You can find the full show available on many websites.

Here's a short promo for the episode:

Here's more information about the episodes (spoilers ahead at the links):
'ALF's Special Christmas' is the closest thing we ever got to a true ALF movie
Get your tissues: Here's the true story of the little girl whose Make-a-Wish dream was to talk to ALF

Synopsis of both episodes

ALF's Special Christmas (Part One)

ALF accidentally falls under a load of Christmas gifts for children in the hospital. He becomes a toy for the terminally ill Tiffany. The alien quickly becomes friends with the girl.

ALF's Special Christmas (Part Two)

ALF has said goodbye to his friend Tiffany. As he is just sneaking out of the hospital he gets stuck in the elevator with a woman who goes into labor.

ALF's Special Christmas is remembered for its mix of humor and heartfelt moments, making it a beloved holiday television event for fans of the ALF series. It remains a nostalgic favorite among those who grew up watching the show during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

St. Lucia Day History and Traditions

Sunday, December 08, 2019 0
St. Lucia Day History and Traditions
Christmas in Sweden and most of Scandinavia begins on December 13th. The 13 is the feast day of Sankta Lucia (Saint Lucia), bringer of light and patron saint of vision. Born in 283 in Syracuse, Sicily, Lucia was known to bring food and supplies to persecuted Christians hiding underground while wearing a wreath of candles upon her head to light the way.

She was betrothed to a wealthy pagan but vowed to remain unmarried, wanting to dedicate her life to helping others. Refusing to be married and named a Christian, she was tortured by having her eyes removed and finally martyred. Before the Gregorian calendar reform, Saint Lucia’s feast day fell on the winter solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year in Sweden, a country she is rumored to have visited in her short life. Today, many in Nordic countries and elsewhere continue to honor her as the virtuous bride, bringing joyful light to their dark winter days.

On the morning of her feast day, in family observances, the oldest daughter in each family dresses in a white robe and wears a wreath of candles on her head while delivering sweet rolls (called lussekatt) and coffee to her parents by candlelight.

The sisters of the Lucia Bride wear a wreath of tinsel in their hair and a piece tied around their waist, while the boys have tall pointed caps sprinkled with stars. Awakened by the lights and the singing, the parents arise and eat the breakfast served, thus ushering in the Christmas season.

As Lucia Day comes at the darkest time of year, the candles of the ministering Sankta Lucia portend and witness to the True Light-the birth of Christ. On the morning of the thirteenth of December, the strains of "Sankta Lucia" are heard everywhere in Scandinavia as the white-robed maiden comes out of the night with her burning crown of candles. In honor of her martyrdom, It has long been the custom to donate money on Lucia Day to institutions working for the blind.

Source, including traditional songs and recipes: http://www.angelfire.com/ne/elkhorn38/stlucia.html

The Legend of Sankta Lucia
Christmas in Sweden
Sankta Lucia: The Survival of a Nordic Sun Goddess

Christmas Television - Blackadder's Christmas Carol

Thursday, December 05, 2019 0
Christmas Television - Blackadder's Christmas Carol
This Christmas special, Blackadder's Christmas Carol, is from 1987 and stars a few names that are recognizable. Rowan Atkinson, best known for his Mr. Bean character. Hugh Laurie, best known for playing Dr. Gregory House on the TV series, House. And also Stephen Fry, who I know mainly from seeing him in V for Vendetta and Stephen Fry in America.

As for Blackadder's Christmas Carol, think of it as the reverse of A Christmas Carol. You can watch it below from archive.org. You can also leave comments/reviews at https://archive.org/details/bbcv4648

Blackadder's Christmas Carol is a one-off episode of Blackadder, a parody of Charles Dickens' 1843 novella A Christmas Carol. It is set between Blackadder the Third (1987) and Blackadder Goes Forth (1989), and is narrated by Hugh Laurie. Produced by the BBC, it was first broadcast on BBC1 on 23 December 1988.

In addition to Blackadder's Christmas Carol you may also be interested in watching one of the many adaptations of A Christmas Carol and especially Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean.

Vintage Christmas TV Specials from the '60s, '70s and '80s

Tuesday, December 03, 2019 0
Vintage Christmas TV Specials from the '60s, '70s and '80s
These are a few of my favorite retro/vintage Christmas shows and specials from the 60s, 70s, and 80s that I remember watching the reruns of growing up. This post is inspired by the article on Click Americana, "100 vintage Christmas TV specials & holiday episodes you might remember from the ’70s & ’80s"

A Charlie Brown Christmas

The 1965 Christmas special starring the Peanuts gang. It's about the true meaning of Christmas, with Biblical elements. Specifically, Luke 2.8-14. In recent years, it has received some criticism for the segment about the birth of Jesus, the story of the Nativity. Some schools have also chosen to no longer show the Christmas special in classrooms.

But the apprehension about the Biblical element being included goes as far back to 1965 when the special was being made. One producer was hesitant about including it. Schultz practically had the convince them to keep it in. The whole, detailed story behind it can be read at How the Bible Almost Got "A Charlie Brown Christmas" Canceled Without that part of the special, and how it adds a depth that ties everything together, A Charlie Brown Christmas would have (more than likely) been forgotten long ago.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

First premiered on December 6th, 1964 and is the longest-running Christmas special. It's the one everyone has seen and is a must-watch every December. Though I also recommend watching the 1948 version
Click here to read the history of Rankin-Bass' Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

The Little Drummer Boy

Also produced by Rankin-Bass and premiered on December 19, 1968. It showed every Christmas season on television until the late 1980s and didn't air for a few years until some time in the 1990s. It also had a 1976 sequel, The Little Drummer Boy, Book II.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the Grinch special that people are most familiar with. It first premiered on December 18, 1966. On top of watching on television growing up, we'd also watch in school on the last day before Christmas break in the 90s,.

Frosty the Snowman

Premiered on December 7, 1969.

A Christmas Carol (1971 Cartoon)

Premiered on December 21, 1971. This one didn't air often when I was growing up and I haven't seen it in a long time. The two other memorable ones I would watch every year though was the 1951 version starring Alastair Simm and the good but really eerie (at least when to a younger me) the 1954 version with Fredric March and Basil Rathbone, which we had on a videotape bought from Ames (remember them?).  Of course, then there's the 1938 adaptation starring Reginald Owen.

And I cannot forget Mickey's Christmas Carol

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Premiered on December 8, 1974 (See also: Twas the Night Before Christmas from 1946)

The Year Without a Santa Claus

Premiered December 10, 1974

Rudolph’s Shiny New Year

Premiered December 10, 1976

One more, though it's not from the 1960s-1980s, is the 1936 Christmas cartoon Christmas Comes But Once a Year. Which we also had on one of those Christmas collection videotapes. The parallax animation and real objects included in the animations always stood out about the cartoon to me (and still does). Which they were creative and complicated effects back in 1936.

Here are a few Christmas commercials from the 1970s, 1980s. There are plenty of Christmas TV variety specials and Christmas cartoons from the 60s, 70s and 80s available on YouTube and streaming platforms

Restoring the Traditions and Meanings of Christmas

Wednesday, November 27, 2019 0
Restoring the Traditions and Meanings of Christmas
As hard as it may be to imagine, Christmas celebrations and observances had more meaning in the past in the United States. Even as recent as a decade ago. Before what we call this 'progressive' age. Progressing towards what? At one time, the Christmas season was more about connectedness and not about the materialistic aspect. Which, in turn, makes Christmas feel like a chore to so many. I would be lying if I said that most families try to stay close to traditions. To spend the day away from ordinary distractions and attentive to each other instead. Most of them don't even have traditions anymore (if they ever did).

Yes they, more often than not, hurry to open their gifts. Then they head off to do their own thing and pay each other little mind. They flip on the television or power on their smart devices and sink into those escapes. They act like Christmas is over after those few moments of opening gifts. Then they'll have a so-called special dinner in the evening and that's it. A few moments in the morning and nothing else feels special about the day. Christmas should be more than that.

The trend of materialism has been a problem for a long time in the United States. We all know that it is only getting worse. It is a trend that needs to be undone. It always leaves people feeling like Christmas is a chore rather than a joy. To change that, we do need to go back to our roots or to find a better way to observe the holiday.

For those of us in the USA we need this change the most. We need to celebrate Christmas the way past generations of our respective families did. To celebrate the way the first-generation immigrants of our families would have. Be it that the "first generation" was a few decades ago or over a century or more ago. If your ancestors didn't celebrate Christmas then research Christmas celebrations around the world and mix and match as you please to give Christmas Day a meaning. It doesn't have to be centered around money.  Because, for most of us, past generations of our families came to these shores with little or no money at all.

Most of all, don't let people make you feel like you're not allowed to celebrate or observe Christmas over politically correct/shaming notions either. You're allowed to be happy as the year winds down through New Year's Eve. You're allowed to celebrate the holiday without being shamed for it. In fact, all of December should be a celebration.

Here's the article that inspired this post.

Mixing Polish and American Christmas Traditions in the USA | Traveling Mom

Many immigrant families across America try to preserve traditions brought from their countries of origin. It is easier said than done, especially when children, first generation Americans, are born. They do not want to be different. Parents need to be creative to find a balance between their culture and needs of their children.

Regarding Christmas celebrations and customs around the world, you can check out the entry on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_traditions

It's best to go to the sources linked on Wikipedia to get the full, unfiltered picture of respective Christmas traditions around the world. From there you'll be able to dig deeper and find more about the Christmas traditions that you're exploring. Or even find out about traditions that you never even knew about.

The Blizzard of 77 -- One of New York State's Most Destructive Snowstorms

Wednesday, November 20, 2019 0
The Blizzard of 77 -- One of New York State's Most Destructive Snowstorms
Twenty-nine people died in the storm from Jan. 28 to Feb. 1, 1977 the first snowstorm to warrant a federal disaster area declaration. Total damage reached $300 million. For 11 days, national news reports showed images of a city blanketed in snow up to the roofs of houses.

Blizzard of 77 Buffalo, New York postcard

When the blizzard began, it seemed like just another Friday morning snow flurry. But by 11:35 a.m., lightning flashed and the sky darkened. The wind shifted and began to howl. Soon, people couldn't see across the street.

"My reaction? Wow!" meteorologist Ed Reich said. "It was the most dramatic storm I ever saw." Surprisingly, the snowfall total for the storm was only 12 inches. What made the blizzard unique were the sustained winds, gusting up to 69 mph, which picked up the drifts piled high on frozen Lake Erie and dumped them in western New York and southern Ontario.

The winds were accompanied by Arctic cold temperatures, making it feel like minus 60 degrees outside. Whiteout conditions quickly trapped thousands of people at work, in cars and in homes. Some had to stay put for a day, others for the storm's duration. At least nine motorists froze to death in their stranded cars.

During this time WKBW Radio was the up-to-the minute source of emergency news for all Western New Yorkers. Not only did WKBW report school, office and factory closings but it was a major contributor of reports that cities, towns and even entire counties were closed and impassable due to blowing and drifting snow! The following audio clips were recorded during this event.

While listening to these recordings of the actual broadcasts, you may detect some anxiety in the announcer's voice!

Blizzard of 77 stop sign buried in snow

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20171105065010/http://www.wkbwradio.com/blizzard.htm

Unfortunately, the audio on that mirrored link cannot be played because the streaming audio files were never mirrored there.

But you can listen to them in this video by PhilaVideo on YouTube. It is well worth the listen.

Here's a TV Broadcast during the Blizzard of '77 from WBEN Channel 4:

A slideshow video from the mirrored website above:

Snow Depth Map of the Blizzard of 77 (skip to 1:22:24, pause, and fullscreen if needed):

A Magical Sound Made By The Earth - Singing Ice

Monday, November 11, 2019 0
A Magical Sound Made By The Earth - Singing Ice
Singing ice is somewhat common and occurs with ice on frozen ponds and lakes. It is otherwise known as acoustic dispersion and occurs in a few ways. Which includes skipping rocks across the surface of the ice, from taking a chance ice skating on ice that's still thin, and (as in this video) from the movement of the ice and the water beneath the ice. When you get to experience it, in person, it is an amazing sound. It is like a spiritual sound and a musical instrument of nature trying to speak with its own voice. Almost unearthly at times.

When I was young, we used to have a depression in our yard that would fill with water from autumn rains. When it would get cold enough to freeze I would skip rocks across the surface of the ice to hear the unique sound of the 'singing' ice. It was nothing as remarkable as what's heard in this video though. If you ever have the chance, I definitely recommend going out to an undisturbed, newly frozen pond and experiencing it for yourself by skipping rocks off the surface. It is an experience that is worth traveling or hiking to a pond or lake, in late fall or winter, to hear the sounds firsthand.

September 1865 Sighting of an Unidentified Object Falling From the Sky in Montana

Thursday, October 31, 2019 0
September 1865 Sighting of an Unidentified Object Falling From the Sky in Montana
Below is a report from an article from November 5, 1865, published in numerous newspapers across the nation in October and November of 1865. Newspapers which included The Daily Phoenix of Columbia, South Carolina, The Cincinnati Commercial, and the St. Louis Democrat. What it describes is an unidentified object that fell from the sky in mid-September of 1865, near Cadotte Pass, Montana. Essentially, a UFO.

A Stone Falls from the Sky, with Characters Engraved upon It.

Mr. James Lumley, an old Rocky Mountain trapper, who has been stopping at the Everett House for several days, makes a most remarkable statement to us, and one which, if authenticated, will produce the greatest excitement in the scientific world.
Mr. Lumley states that about the middle of last September, he was engaged in trapping in the mountains about seventy-five or one hundred miles above the Great Falls of the Upper Missouri, and in the neighborhood of what is known as Cadotte Pass. Just after sunset one evening, he beheld a bright luminous body in the heavens, which moved with great rapidity in an easterly direction. It was plainly visible for at least five seconds, when it suddenly separated into particles, resembling, as Mr. Lumley describes it, the bursting of a sky-rocket in the air. A few minutes later, he heard a heavy explosion, which jarred the earth very perceptibly, and this was shortly after followed by a rushing sound, like a tornado sweeping through the forest. A strong wind sprang up about the same time, but suddenly subsided. The air was also filled with a peculiar odor of a sulphurous character.
These incidents would have made a slight impression on the mind of Mr. Lumley, but for the fact that on the ensuing day he discovered, at the distance of about two miles from his camping place, that, as far as he could see in either direction a path had been cut through the forest, several rods wide-giant trees uprooted or broken off near the ground- the tops of hills shaved off and the earth plowed up in many places. Great and widespread havoc was everywhere visible. Following up this track of desolation, he soon ascertained the cause of it in the shape of an immense stone driven into the side of a mountain. An examination of this stone, or so much of it as was visible, showed that it was divided into compartments that in various places it was carved with curious hieroglyphics. More than this, Mr. Lumley also discovered fragments of a substance resembling glass, and here and there dark stains, as though caused by a liquid. He is confident that the hieroglyphics are the work of human hands, and that the stone itself, although but a fragment of an immense body, must have been used for some purpose by animated beings.
Strange as this story appears, Mr. Lumley relates it with so much sincerity that we are forced to accept it as true. It is evident that the stone which he discovered, was a fragment of the meteor which was visible in this section in September last. It will be remembered that it was seen in Leavenworth, Galena and in this city by Col. Bonneville. At Leavenworth it was seen to separate into particles or explode.
Astronomers have long held that it is probable that the heavenly bodies are inhabited -- even the comets -- and it may be that the meteors are also. Possibly, meteors could be used as a means of conveyance by the inhabitants of other planets, in exploring space, and it may be that hereafter some future Columbus, from Mercury or Uranus, may land on this planet by means of a meteoric conveyance, and take full possession thereof -- as did the Spanish navigators of the New World in 1492, and eventually drive what is known as the "human race" into a condition of the most abject servitude. It has always been a favorite theory with many that there must be a race superior to us, and this may at some future time be demonstrated in the manner we have indicated.

1864 UFO Crash...?

My Favorite Halloween Movies and TV Episodes

Thursday, October 10, 2019 0
My Favorite Halloween Movies and TV Episodes
Every year around Halloween I try to make time to watch a few films and tv episodes during the season. Not all of them are Halloween themed specifically but they're suited for this time of year. Some of these shows and films are more about nostalgia for me. As is the case with many of the reasons why people watch certain shows and movies throughout October. Here are some of my favorites in no particular order.

Ernest Scared Stupid

Ernest P. Worrell was one of my favorite characters in movies when I was a child. This film is no different and I've seen it quite a few times. It's a good film for nostalgia's sake.

The Hollow (2004)

There are a lot of people who don't like this film because of who stars in it (Nick Carter). And this was before the accusations against him. Ignoring his presence in the film as much as you can, this movie is an okay retelling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Further down the article I will also be highlighting a much better film based on Washington Irving's story.

Casper (1995)

1995's Casper film, starring Christina Ricci, goes along great with the Casper cartoons. The cartoons, which were also a favorite of mine growing up. We had a few episodes of them on those VHS tapes that'd you get from Ames (remember them?) and Kmart. Anyways, about the Caspar movie, the story is really good and the acting is also, in my opinion. The fact that CG in a film, from the mid-90s, looks as good as it does is also a plus.

Disney's Scary Tales (1983)

I used to watch this Disney special every year, during the month of October, when I was younger. In fact, this one was just about a must to watch when I was a child. You can find a few other Disney Halloween specials listed on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scary_Tales

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

No list is complete without this classic. Another Halloween cartoon I would watch every year growing up.

Wait Till Helen Comes

This is a more recent movie but was a story that I read as a child. I'd only remembered the name of the book once advertisements for the film were being shown online. The story stuck in my mind from my childhood and the film isn't all that bad.

Trick 'r Treat

I only found out about this film because I was watching True Blood and was looking for other similarly-themed stuff that starred any of the people from the HBO show. Specifically Anna Paquin. Trick 'r Treat was the film that fit the bill. Sam is an excellent standout character and one that makes this film itself stand out from many Halloween-season films of recent years. 

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Last, but not least, is the 1980 movie, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", starring a young Jeff Goldblum who makes for the perfect Ichabod Crane. This adaptation of the Washington Irving story is much much better than The Hollow above. And it's far more atmospheric, partly owning to the age of the film and how it was filmed. Like The Hollow, it is also a made for tv film. I recommend watching this after watching The Hollow though. Maybe even on Halloween night if you have the time. The full version is currently available on YouTube.

I've probably forgotten quite a few of the greats for watching during October and during the Halloween season. So feel free to leave a comment about some of your Halloween tv and movie favorites.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park, NYC

Saturday, September 14, 2019 0
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park, NYC
The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is a reservoir that is no longer in use as a water supply. It's a massive body of water that covers over 100 acres and holds over a billion gallons of water. Water access to the reservoir is not permitted to the public and is completely gated in, making it a haven for waterfowl and turtles.

It was 'retired' back in 1993 after it was determined that it was vulnerable to contamination and was also made obsolete by superior methods of supplying the water supply for the city. The reservoir was still considered a part of the city's water supply, for emergency use during droughts, until 1999. 

The reservoir used to be called the Central Park Reservoir, but in 1994 it was renamed in honor of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the former First Lady and fashion icon.

If you're looking for a place to go for a run or walk, the reservoir has got you covered. There's a 1.6-mile track that circles the entire thing, and it's super popular with joggers and walkers alike. It attracts thousands of walkers and joggers every day.  It serves as the primary water supply for the park's other ponds and lakes.

Other facts about the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir:

Construction on the reservoir began in 1858, and it was completed in 1862. Irish immigrants were the main workers working on the reservoir during those years of construction. The reservoir was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who were also responsible for the design of Central Park itself. The reservoir covers an area of 106 acres and has a maximum depth of 40 feet.

The reservoir was originally called the Croton Reservoir because it was fed by the Croton Aqueduct, which brought fresh water from the Croton River in Westchester County to New York City.

The reservoir has been featured in a bunch of movies and TV shows over the years, like "Sex and the City," "The Devil's Advocate," and "Law & Order." 

Some people have suggested turning the reservoir into a pool or recreational area, but there are concerns about water quality and safety. So for now, it's just a really cool spot to check out in the heart of Central Park.

Related: 131-Year-Old Reservoir Is Deemed Obsolete

The street view panorama below was taken during the January 2016 blizzard

Tulip Poplar Trees - Quick Facts and Pictures

Wednesday, September 04, 2019 0
Tulip Poplar Trees - Quick Facts and Pictures
The tulip poplar goes by a few names, including yellow poplar, tulip tree, saddle-leaf tree, and its scientific name, Liriodendron tulipifera. There is also a similar species in China and Vietnam that has the scientific name, Liriodendron chinense. The tulip poplar, related to the magnolia tree, is a hardwood tree native to the eastern regions of the United States, except for the Northwest United States. It also grows in a few regions of Ontario, Canada, including from the Southern shores of Lake Huron, the Northern shores of Lake Erie, and the Niagara Peninsula region.

Given the right conditions, a tulip poplar can grow 150 feet in height or taller. There are records of tulip poplars reaching upwards and above 190 feet in height. On average though, a tulip poplar will be anywhere from 70 to 100 feet in height. Being a quick growing tree, you'll have a good beginning of a shade tree within a few years. What's also good about tulip poplars is that they are long-living and can live for a couple hundred years.

As for the flowers of the tulip poplar, they won't appear until the tree is around fifteen years old. From then on, the flowers will develop in the spring in southern areas and in late spring in northern areas. The flowers are typically yellow but can also be a pale green. The tulip-shaped flowers of the tree are good for attracting bees and if provide an abundance of nectar for bees' production of poplar honey.

Read More:
Tulip Poplar Tree Facts, Uses, and Planting Tipsand-Planting-Tips

Tulip Poplar Seeds
Tulip Poplar Leaf in Autumn
Tulip Poplar Flower
Tulip Poplar Leaves

The Dirty Thirties - The Dust Bowl

Saturday, July 06, 2019 0
The Dirty Thirties - The Dust Bowl
As anyone who has lived through a tragedy knows, severe circumstances tend to bring out the best in some and the worst in others. This phenomenon can be seen in the history of the region which became known in the 1930s as the dust bowl. While the location of the dust bowl was not static during that trying decade, the term generally refers to the southern portion of the Great Plains. It includes, but is not limited to the northern Texas Panhandle, northeastern New Mexico, southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, and the Oklahoma Panhandle. One historian describes the severity of life in this area during the 1930s this way:

"The history of the heartland of the dust bowl is a story of extremes. The depression drove farm prices to devastatingly low levels while the weather tormented the residents of the region. Severe depression and extremes in weather were accompanied by plagues of rodents and insects. Although the period is known for its dust storms, the era began with a flood." (Bonnifield pg.61)

Dust storm approaching Spearman, Texas - April 14, 1935 - See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Indeed in September of 1930 heavy rains descended on the area with devastating effects. Homes were wrecked, businesses destroyed, equipment washed away, and the decade known as the "dirty thirties" began on the Great Plains. Of all the destructive forces that would be endured by the plains people during the next ten years - tornadoes, hail storms, plagues of insects - the most inescapable and pervasively destructive force of all was the wind. Once fertile land which had fed the livestock, produced abundant gardens and paid the bills was dried and pummelled into a fine dust, swept up 40 feet into the air, and deposited on floors, in cupboards, on food, between bedclothes, and in every nook and cranny of life. In this way, the wind and sun robbed a people of their livelihood, wore down their resolve, and relentlessly imposed on their very sanity.

As the years of wind and drought wore on, the inhabitants, many whose families had settled the area in the 1800s, were helpless to rejuvenate their land. Instead, they were forced to stand by as livestock starved in the pasture, crops literally burned in the fields, and plans for the future were carried away in the wind with the topsoil. Savings, meant to send a son or daughter to college, or to build up a herd of cattle to support a growing family, dwindled away as year after year the harvest failed to come through.

One of the greatest tragedies of the time was the fact that as mortgages were called in one by one by banks, the government with its 'Resettlement Administration' stepped in to buy up land for pennies. As the government consequently changed the landscape; experimentally building work camps, damming water sources, and trying out different fire prevention methods, many long-time residents who owed nothing on their land were forced to move.

While it is true that farming methods of the time contributed to the extent of the dust storms and land erosion, that fact is only a part of the story. Another part of the story is told by the survivors whose families called the land home for decades. They tell of mismanaged government programs and homes and land destroyed by prairie fires set by inexperienced government workers in the name of progress.

In the end, people who had relied on nature for their livelihood and who were all too familiar with the whims of weather and cycles of abundance and scarcity met the challenge in the way they had met so many before - with perseverance and most of all with hope. Hope for a better time next year. Called "America's Next Year People", these resilient families fought for their lives against unbelievable forces. They hung wet sheets on walls and ceilings to catch the dust. They ate meals under tablecloths to cut down on the amount of dirt ingested. After the worst storms, they literally shoveled the dirt from their rooms. And in the midst of the drought, they gathered tumbleweeds and soapweed to feed the livestock.

In her book, Dust Bowl Diary, Anne Marie Low describes the constant struggle to keep livestock alive, "Teaching a calf to drink from a bucket is a messy job. Nature tells him nourishment comes from above, like manna from Heaven." (Low pg.54)

Like the calf, the plains people were betrayed by the very lessons they had learned from nature. Dry spells are followed by wet spells, and rain eventually does fall, or so they thought. Lured to the area decades before with promises of abundance and government offers of bargain land, now they watched in what must have been awful amazement as nature turned its back.

In 1932 as the trials were just beginning, Anne Low writes of the beauty of her homeland:

"This evening I picked chokecherries in the Big Pasture, starting home just at sunset. Ducks were feeding quietly along the river. Behind me, the hills were turning lavender. In front of me, the fields were a golden mist. My country." (Low pg. 69)

Who could imagine the good times would not return? Just two years later she writes, "This country doesn't look pretty anymore; it is too barren. I'm herding the milk cows on what is left of the grain fields. We replanted the corn and garden...If it doesn't rain, the corn is out of luck." (Low pg. 99)

The story of the dust bowl is a complex story of failure and hope, furious weather and furious human effort, and most of all it is a story of the unending human capacity for faith in a better tomorrow.

Map of regions that were affected by the Dust Bowl.

Dust Bowl Era Photos Prints on ebay


Works Cited:

Bonnifield, Paul. The Dust Bowl: Men, Dirt, and Depression (Albequerque 1979)Low, Anne Marie. Dust Bowl Diary (Nebraska 1984)

Article mirrored from: 

Katelyn Nicole Davis ? Forever Missed