By Carla Charter
I had learned briefly about the depression-era dust storms in history class but The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan not only discussed this natural disaster but dropped you right into the middle of that time. It felt like you were there seeing the walls of dust, created by the main character, nature itself, on Black Sunday and walking through the post-apocalyptic landscape left behind. The dust bowl storms, a result of environmentally neglectful farming techniques, are told through historical facts intertwined with the stories of the farmers who survived these days.
More than telling the story of the dustbowl it also relates of the domino effect that the dustbowl had on families, communities, banks, all the very lifeblood of these midwestern states. These dust storms brought with them collapses of people’s health, established communities and the farmland itself.
Steinbeck’s Grape of Wrath tells the fictional story of a family surviving the dustbowl of the 1930’s. This story tells the equally fascinating real-life tales of those who survived and those who left. It leaves you wondering on the strength of these families that stayed and the remainder of the stories, many lost to history and family lore, of those who left.
The Worst Hard Time more than anything is a story of resilience and an environmental warning to all of us of what can happen when we place profit over proper environmental management. It is a clear reminder of the resilience and power of nature and its ability to transform all of our lives for better or worse.