Rooted in Dust: Surviving Drought and Depression in Southwestern Kansas / Edition 1

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Fontell Littrell's grandmother was a devout Latter-Day Saint. But when Fontell's father turned to bootlegging and poker to support an extended family of ten during the dirty thirties, her grandmother took it in stride. "The Lord works in mysterious ways, his miracles to perform," she rationalized.

The Litrells' story and those of thousands of others who rode out the dust bowl in southwest Kansas are the focus of Pamela Riney-Kehrberg's study of survival in a drought-ridden decade. Unlike other historians, who have dwelt on those who fled hardship, Riney-Kehrberg concentrates on the majority—three-quarters of the population—who endured.

Examining the social impact of drought and depression, she illustrates how both farm and town families dealt with the deprivation by finding odd jobs, working in government programs, or depending on federal and private assistance. Years of tribulation, she shows, affected standards of living, family relationships, city and county finances, land ownership, farm prices and production, population shifts, and politics (traditionally staunchly Republican, southwest Kansas twice voted for Roosevelt). Looking also at the environmental impact, Riney-Kehrberg presents both the negative and positive sides of farming practices and governmental intervention.

Most Kansans persevered for nearly ten years, Riney-Kehrberg emphasizes, and how they adapted indelibly altered their outlook and plans for the future More than fifty years later, the devastating dust storms continue to affect agricultural practices and policy and the population of southwest Kansas.

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Editorial Reviews

Environmental History
A significant contribution to the environmental and social history of the Dust Bowl.
Western Historical Quarterly
Full of rich information.
American Historical Review
Recommended reading for anyone concerned with the history of environmental and public welfare policies, as well as agricultural history.
Journal of American History
A finely crafted social history. Stark and evocative photos enhance the work.
Riney-Kehrberg (history, Illinois State U.) examines the social impact of the economic hardship and environmental disaster of drought and depression in southwestern Kansas. She demonstrates how both farm and town families survived, and shows how the years of deprivation affected standards of living, family relationships, city and county finances, land ownership, farm prices, and politics. Includes b&w photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700608393
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 2/28/1997
  • Series: Rural America Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 1,527,831
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations, Maps, and Tables



1. Hardly a Cloud in the Sky

2. Trials, Tests, and Hard Times

3. A Cow in Every Yard

4. "Everything Comes from Washington"

5. The Hardest of Times

6. Down but Not Out

7. Facing a Crisis of Confidence

8. Too Poor to Leave, Too Discouraged to Stay

Epilogue: The Dust Settles

Appendix A: Questionnaire and Oral History Project

Appendix B: Use of the Kansas State Agricultural Census

Appendix C: Tables




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