Customer Reviews for

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl

Average Rating 4.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

20 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

I read every line !

This was a great historical book on the cause and effect of the Dust Bowl at the early 1900's. How millions of acres of grassland were destroyed and the effect on families and the nation, -about a time in our country we all hear about occasionally but rarely hear the wh...
This was a great historical book on the cause and effect of the Dust Bowl at the early 1900's. How millions of acres of grassland were destroyed and the effect on families and the nation, -about a time in our country we all hear about occasionally but rarely hear the why and how of it and how it devastated people. It was written so well i read every line.

As I read it - it could have been our times today. Banks closing down, people not aware of the consequences of what they were doing, poor government policies, the drive for more and more, the devastation to our ecological system,

The writer also reminds us we aren't done messing around - we are drawing down the biggest reserve we have - the Ogallala Aquifer - at a tremendous rate - this serves 30% of the irrigation water in the US. The cotton farmers in Texas are siphoning from the aquifer so they can dramatically increase their production of cotton, which no longer has an American market So these the cotton growers get three billion dollars a year in tax payer money for fiber that is shipped to China, where it is used to make cheap clothing that is sold back to American retail stores like Wal-Mart. At the current rate of water consumption the aquifer will dry up within 100 years, and in some parts of the US before then. As the writer says - we were founded as a nation of settlers and farmers and less than 1% of all jobs are in agriculture now.

It is a great book to remind us to pay attention to what is happening today before we lose something we can't replace.

posted by mamamia on July 25, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

15 out of 32 people found this review helpful.

Your map is wrong.

First, Follett and Darrouzett, Texas need to be reversed on your map of the 'Dust Bowl'. Second, 'No Man's Land' includes the entire Oklahoma Panhandle, not just the western portion as your book states. These oversights are just two of the many that plague Tim...
First, Follett and Darrouzett, Texas need to be reversed on your map of the 'Dust Bowl'. Second, 'No Man's Land' includes the entire Oklahoma Panhandle, not just the western portion as your book states. These oversights are just two of the many that plague Timothy Egan's new book, 'The Worst Hard Time'. The hyper, sensationalized, erratic, journalistic style of writing does not pay tribute to the historical subject matter at hand, as his title and thesis would suggest, but instead turns on 'those who survived the Great American Dust Bowl' and portrayes them as ignorant sheep, rapers of a fragile land and thieves, taking from those to whom Egan belives it clearly belongs, the Plains Indian. Egan writes that 'those who had broken the prarie grass, only to have it break them' were now left with only three ways to get food during the worst hard time. Soup lines in Boise City, roadkill or stealing. Soup lines in a town nearly void of humankind? Roadkill in a country void of vehicles? Stealing in a country where no one has anything to steal? Egan and those who herald this book should be ashamed of themselves. Egan clearly shows contempt for his subject and subject matter through out the pages of his book.

posted by Anonymous on January 27, 2006

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  • Posted July 25, 2009

    I read every line !

    This was a great historical book on the cause and effect of the Dust Bowl at the early 1900's. How millions of acres of grassland were destroyed and the effect on families and the nation, -about a time in our country we all hear about occasionally but rarely hear the why and how of it and how it devastated people. It was written so well i read every line.

    As I read it - it could have been our times today. Banks closing down, people not aware of the consequences of what they were doing, poor government policies, the drive for more and more, the devastation to our ecological system,

    The writer also reminds us we aren't done messing around - we are drawing down the biggest reserve we have - the Ogallala Aquifer - at a tremendous rate - this serves 30% of the irrigation water in the US. The cotton farmers in Texas are siphoning from the aquifer so they can dramatically increase their production of cotton, which no longer has an American market So these the cotton growers get three billion dollars a year in tax payer money for fiber that is shipped to China, where it is used to make cheap clothing that is sold back to American retail stores like Wal-Mart. At the current rate of water consumption the aquifer will dry up within 100 years, and in some parts of the US before then. As the writer says - we were founded as a nation of settlers and farmers and less than 1% of all jobs are in agriculture now.

    It is a great book to remind us to pay attention to what is happening today before we lose something we can't replace.

    20 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2006

    Your map is wrong.

    First, Follett and Darrouzett, Texas need to be reversed on your map of the 'Dust Bowl'. Second, 'No Man's Land' includes the entire Oklahoma Panhandle, not just the western portion as your book states. These oversights are just two of the many that plague Timothy Egan's new book, 'The Worst Hard Time'. The hyper, sensationalized, erratic, journalistic style of writing does not pay tribute to the historical subject matter at hand, as his title and thesis would suggest, but instead turns on 'those who survived the Great American Dust Bowl' and portrayes them as ignorant sheep, rapers of a fragile land and thieves, taking from those to whom Egan belives it clearly belongs, the Plains Indian. Egan writes that 'those who had broken the prarie grass, only to have it break them' were now left with only three ways to get food during the worst hard time. Soup lines in Boise City, roadkill or stealing. Soup lines in a town nearly void of humankind? Roadkill in a country void of vehicles? Stealing in a country where no one has anything to steal? Egan and those who herald this book should be ashamed of themselves. Egan clearly shows contempt for his subject and subject matter through out the pages of his book.

    15 out of 32 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 31, 2009

    Terrific

    I am familiar with this area in the Oklahoma panhandle. I have family there. It is amazing to think that anyone then or now would try to live in that region.

    This book gives a vivid account of the trials and tribulations facing the people of that tough enviroment.

    It also examines the folly of pursuing short term gain without trying to anticipate the long term effects of their planting efforts during those times.

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2008

    An engrossing, educational book.

    My mother lived through the Dust Bowl as a young girl. She never spoke about it except to say it was very dusty. Well, hearing that I thought that was all there was to it. What an education I received about my mother's childhood. As I progressed through the book I would ask her questions and I found she lived what I was reading! Black Sunday is still a vivid memory for her. I highly recommend this book for anyone, especially those that may know someone that experienced the Dust Bowl first hand. An important piece of American history.

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2009

    Fascinating, frightening and oddly inspirational

    Timothy Egan does an excellent job of presenting the horrors of the Dust Bowl years in very human terms. For those of us who have been taught to think of the Great Depression in terms of bankers and stockbrokers jumping off ledges, and to visualize only the urban poor of the Thirties, this offers some insight into what was happening in the rest of the country. The people Egan focuses on, unlike the Okies of The Grapes of Wrath, chose to stay in their homes despite seeing their world destroyed or simply blown away. The Worst Hard Time serves as a history of the Dust Bowl, a story of human endurance, and a cautionary tale of how we use and abuse the land.

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 19, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    The Destruction of Our Western Plains

    This book is subtitled "The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl," and the author has given us an up-close and personal look into the lives of real Americans who did not flee from Oklahoma and the other states affected by the Dust Bowl events. This is the story of several families in towns of the Great Plains who clung to the land they had helped to ruin even through the Great Depression. This is our parents' and grandparents' generation whose stories are preserved for us by author Timothy Egan in the hope that this man-made disaster will never happen again in our country. It is the history of an event caused by man's abuse of his natural environment.
    John Steinbeck wrote in Grapes of Wrath about the "Okies" who fled the Dust Bowl and the tragedy of their lives. Egan writes of those who stayed, hidden behind windows covered with wet sheets to keep out the dust;who watched while their animals died outside from starvation caused by internal suffocation; who watched while their crops and gardens were destroyed and covered with dust; and who suffered while their babies and children died from "dust pneumonia." He tells us of the starvation of families who lived in sod houses on the prairie and the eventual disappearance of entire communities. He points out the political charlatans and greedy land-grabbers who rode the wave of western settlement when there was prosperity.
    Because this is American history, the story has to be told that our government and the people who followed a dream to the Great Plains were the cause of this great disaster. Ignorance of environmental conditions and total unconcern for the results of the tearing up of the prairie brought desolation to the land and despair to the inhabitants.
    There are descriptions of the dust storms that stretch the imagination. On Jan. 21, 1932, a cloud ten thousand feet high from ground to top appeared just outside Amarillo, Texas. The winds were clocked at more than 60 miles per hour. This black mountain of dust was a blizzard that caused the sky to go dark in the middle of the day and created zero visibility. These blizzards blew for 7 days without stopping and covered parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas. Because dust is made up of sand particles (silicon), it is as sharp as glass and deadly to those who inhale it. Eventually the dust blew east into Chicago, New York, Washington, and onto ships in the Atlantic Ocean. There are some amazing pictures in the book that a few journalists and others were able to capture during this period.
    A fascinating part of this story is the politics in Washington during this time and the efforts of Franklin Roosevelt to save the people of the Great Plains and to reclaim the land before it became desert. Just as his 6th cousin, Teddy Roosevelt, had worked to save the western forests, Franklin Roosevelt found himself working to save the western plains.
    Whenever I read the stories that people recall of their past, I stop and wonder if we really listen to what they are trying to tell us. Have we learned anything from this terrible tragedy, or will we allow those who only care about profit to destroy our natural resources?

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    Incredibly Educational

    The Worst Hard Time is an amazing book with great detail and vivid descriptions of the Dust Bowl. I have read volumes of historical books and believe this one to be among the best.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2008

    Had to stop reading to go to work...ARGH!

    I found this book very interesting and in some respects topical to today's environmental and finanacial events. Being a Baby Boomer I heard all the depression stories from my grandparents. My husband's grand-parents left the Dust Bowl of OK early on, but reading this book you can appreciate why people held on. While the first reviewer totally bashed the book I really believe you do get a feel for what the people were living through and I didn't get where the book blamed the people, but in fact it made me realize how deceived they were by the number of factors presented in the book. If you love history I do think you'll enjoy the book as it's a subject that is just brushed by in history classes, which is the reason I picked it up to read.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2008

    A reviewer

    I love history and knew (very little) about the dust bowl era. This book seemed like a good choice. By the end of the book I was near tears as the epiloge wound down the stories of people I had come to know very intimatly in the previou 300 pages. Absolutly amazing is how I would rate this book. A must read for people who would like to know more about what made this country what it is.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2008

    Stunning...

    This book is excellent. Egan deftly shatters many of the stereotypes associated with the 'dust bowl' and the people who survived it. He focuses not on the families who fled, but on the stout souls who chose to stick it out whether out of a sense of dedication, foolishness or from a lack of real options. Our modern 'disasters' pale in comparison to the grinding, seemingly ceaseless agony that was the dust bowl and the Great Depression. Egan has produced something truly meaningful and valuable in this book.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2008

    Finally done with it...

    I really had high hopes for this one after reading all of the great reviews. After all, it won a national book award, right? Well... I've just mercifully finished it and found it to be a little too dry and slow. I'm usually a lover of historical period books like these, but I thought this one was disappointing. I enjoyed reading about the effects of the dust at first, but just felt I kept reading about the same thing chapter after chapter. There never really seemed to be a pace to the book until the final 80 or so pages.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2012

    Amazing

    I knew about The Dust Bowl from my gradeschool history lesson. I NEVER realized it lasted 10Years!!! I also never realized that the dust reached Washhington DC on what is called Black Sunday. This is a great read if you enjoy reading about history that didn't make it into our traditional history books.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2011

    Good local history

    I enjoyed reading this book (although, pardon the pun, at times it was a bit dry). Being a native of Colorado, and being able to read about something that happened so close to home, really drew me into this book. I love to learn about natural diasters, and this was a bit eye opening to discover that the "dusters" were not just one or two years of irritation, but tormented the people and their lives for much, much longer than I thought. Dust pneumonia? Static electricity from dust clouds? Who knew? I can't even imagine what it was like to try to survive in such a horrible environment. It was creepy to look at the pictures and imagine myself in the shoes of someone looking into the approaching cloud of debris, and the devastation in some places even to this day is depressing. I do wish the grasshopper plague had been covered a bit more, but all in all, this was an excellent read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2012

    Copycat

    *he bashes the bot's head in*

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 24, 2009

    An excellent historical perspective.

    Mr. Egan weaves an outstanding portrait of the impact of the late 20's/early 30's financial and ecological crises on individuals and families of the Dust Bowl. Mr. Egan provides the reader with the emotional and physical trauma associated with the period by setting the political and economic context and following individuals through their personal challenges. The description of the FDR Administration's New Deal put into perspective current responses to today's Great Recession. A fascinating book with a readily accessible writing style. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent read

    This book is a riveting read. It shows the toughness of the American people. Even mirrors what is happening today. I recommend it to anyone interested in current American history.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2008

    Eye Opening to My Own Family's History

    I found this book very inspiring. Also it had a message about today's environmental and finanacial events which I find very frightening! I enjoyed the verbal history researched by the writer in Notes and Sources in the back of the book. My family lived in Amarillo and Littlefield. My grandmother died from dust pneumonia on her farm which was part of the original XIT Ranch. My mother-in-law was a school teacher in a one room school house in the Oklahoma Panhandle. She told me she had to shovel dirt out of the school each morning. All of these family members are dead now so I can't ask more questions. I knew about the Dust Bowl but not as much as I thought. This should be a must read in American History in school! A wonderfully told factual story!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2006

    A must read for baby boomers

    I would think that I had heard, and read, of it all. Until I read this book, I was unaware of the wide reaching effects, as a person born in the 60's, of the dust bowl. Everyone who is feeling they are deprived because they didn't get their Lexus or PS3 for Christmas should right their perspective through this book of suffering, loyalty, and steadfast determination to beat the odds. And please remember that there are millions of people in third world nations who would love to be in your shoes, right now.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2006

    Heartbreaking

    As a Texas Panhandle native, I can recall my grandfather's scathing comments about those who had foolishly eroded the treasure of soil in what used to be called 'The Golden Spread.' This book effectively tells the story of a horrid, unforgiving phenomenon that we in this area hope is never repeated. It is well-written and accurate in its analysis.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2007

    What about South Dakota?

    I thought the book was outstanding. I just finished it today. It is a picture that is hard to get out of my mind. My parents farmed near Platte, SD during the depression. When I saw Mr. Egan's map, I was very surprised that SD was not on the map. However, after reading the book, I could see that Texas got the wind and dust storms far worse than SD. However, I do believe the grasshoppers came to SD sooner than to Texas.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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