Are we going to be the “next year” people of the dust bowl or the “here now” people? We are in a situation now; one which will imprint each of us. There are many loses, but through a time of tragedy and sorrow there are also rays of “sonshine.”
As I watched Ken Burns’ documentary on the dust bowl, I was astounded that so many could be optimistic in the throes of such devastation; loss of income, homes and lives. Their food was gone. Their children and family were dying from dust pneumonia; dust filled their nostrils and lungs causing mud and suffocation; some dying within minutes or hours. If their homes were not destroyed or foreclosed, the home values depreciated by 90%. They had no financial means to move. They remained with the determination and confidence of better days ahead.
As the calamity progressed, Black Sunday in April 1935 affected persons throughout the continental US. 12 million pounds of dust from the great plains blew across the country, even some descending upon the President’s desk in the white house. Opinions and ideas were sent from across the country on methods of stopping this catastrophe. Suggestions of covering the 100 million acres of the great plains with concrete or asphalt were only a couple of dozens of such irrational suggestions.
How did the survivors of the dust bowl maintain their positive outlook when their livestock was buried alive or when only the roofs of their homes were visible under colossal mounds of dirt? If the cattle didn’t die from asphyxiation of the dust, the starving cattle were herded into massive trenches and killed as a mandate by federal and state governments. Interviewed survivors from this trauma touted of pleading to retain the younger and healthier cattle, but it was refused. All were killed. Even if farmers had a single cow for milk for their families, they would kill newborn calves to conserve the mother’s milk for their own families.
Yet, in the midst of calamity, rabbits survived. I found that to be somewhat humorous, but it wasn’t. For the thousands of rabbits were obliterating everything in their path, including fence posts. I pondered the reality of such adversities. The tenacious farmers and their families endured destruction of their livestock, homes and family members, only to be further assailed by rabbits.
Do we ever have times in our lives when we feel we have been defeated by rabbits? We feel we have lost everything and as we are trying to recover, the rabbits arrive. For the “next year” generation, hope kept them going. Hope was also their disappointment. Year after year they hoped and year upon year nothing changed.
“But then”….it did change. For those that survived and hoped, the winds blew, but without the dust. The skies were blue and not black from dust. The land beneath their feet once again produced food for their families and livestock. Homes were rebuilt and families restored.
Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV, “the Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”