Monday, November 19, 2012

Worth the watch

I caught part of Ken Burns' documentary about the Dust Bowl on PBS last night.  Growing up here, you cover some of that stuff in history classes along the way, but certainly not in the kind of depth that you get in this documentary. The thing that struck me (and I only watched the first part) was how LONG it lasted.  You would think people would have given up and moved on a whole lot sooner than they did having to live in those kinds of conditions, but they were tough...or stubborn...or just didn't realize (which seems typical of human beings...the inability to look for solutions to a bad situation when you're right in the middle of it)...I don't know.

My father was born in Okarchee, OK in 1930.  He was a Dust Bowl baby.  He was the youngest of six kids (that I'm aware of, there may have been more, but that side of the family's history is spotty at best, and he's no longer around to quiz about it.)  After watching this, I'm amazed they survived, and I'd give anything to pick his brain about it.  His father was a share cropper, and the family eventually left Oklahoma and moved to California (hello, Grapes of Wrath) when things became untenable.  I wonder, after watching this, how bad it was before it reached the breaking point.  This picture is from a day in April, 1935 when they had the biggest and baddest of the Dust Storms.  Woody Guthrie, born and raised in Okemah, OK, who would have been 14 years old on this day, credits this horrible storm as the inspiration for his song "So Long It's Been Good to Know Yuh."  As that storm approached, he said, people were sure it was the end of the world, and they all started their goodbyes to one another.  Hard to imagine.

My uncle, a few years older than my father, met Woody at some point.  I'm not sure about the details, but they certainly would have had a few things in common. 

Probably not a great documentary for little kids, but middle school and up would be appropriate.  Ken gets fairly graphic about things like the wholesale slaughter of cattle, and jackrabbit round ups, not to mention some very sad and tragic stories about the loss of human life.

I need to watch the rest of it, and then ask my uncle a few more questions before he's no longer around either.

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