The Worst Hard Time

by Timothy Egan

Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006

Timothy Egan writes compellingly of important events in American History.  The Worst Hard Time is the story of ordinary Americans who endured the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.  Frequent massive dust storms or “black blizzards” haunted parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma for most of the decade and perversely coincided with the Great Depression.  The Dust Bowl was the first major environmental disaster in American history, following the destruction of vast acreage of grasslands that held the soil of the high plains in place.  This was the result of bad policy by the federal government, via the Homestead Act of 1862, and bad agricultural practices by small farmers simply trying to win their piece of the American dream – all with the best of intentions.

Herbert Hoover largely ignored the plight of the Midwestern farmers in the early ’30s.  When Franklin D. Roosevelt became president, he rendered aid, and he believed that what had been broken by man could be fixed by man.  It was never entirely fixed, though.  The Worst Hard Time tells this important story in a most personal way that readers will never forget.

2 thoughts on “The Worst Hard Time

  1. A fascinating book, and a bit scary too, of course. The way the story weaves back and forth between the big picture and individual stories is very compelling. That’s a pretty common device, but it’s so well done one doesn’t mind. Along the lines of the problem never really having gone away, check out the National Drought Monitor — droughtmonitor.unl.edu — and lo and behold, the same area more or less is still in a bad way, though California looks worse.

    • Thanks for your insightful comments on an important piece of 20th century history and its relevance to today’s times of scarce water resources. With drought and frequent incidents of contamination of our water supply, can we really afford the risks of fracking?

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