As we listen to the wind howl and watch the dust blow, we wonder what to expect next. We watch the clouds come and go while hoping that one day they will stop in our area to deposit some moisture. We listen to the people who live on the land as they describe the results of the current drought, and some of us recall other days during which we went all too long without rain.
As we look back in time, we are much aware of the events of “the Dust Bowl days” and are hoping we aren’t seeing their repetition. We can remember other dry spells in the interim and know we managed some way to get by, even if we were a bit miserable for a while.
I am reminded of the major novel by John Steinbeck, “The Grapes of Wrath,” with his story of the Joad family who left their land in Oklahoma to search for their Garden of Eden in California. When that book was first published, many libraries banned it or checked it out in “plain brown wrappers.” The latter happened here as that book was one of those kept under the checkout desk and made available to a few people only.
Despite the upheaval over that work, Steinbeck has received much credit for bringing to life many of the real happenings of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Although many readers still look down on such people as the Joads, they represent the strengths and weaknesses of our people when we are faced with disasters. Ma Joad shows the strength needed by the women during harsh times as she remains proud and strong throughout the terrible journey. She stands behind the men when they are about to lose hope and helps them to see that hope must not be lost.
Steinbeck describes the coming of the clouds to bring hope and then their disappearance to dash hope. He uses much color to show the encroaching drought and the lack of color as it sets in. He relates the story of one family as it travels Route 66 and the ups and downs that occur.
As a teacher, I always felt a little too close to the story because I had seen so much of the kind of life described. No matter how many times I have read the novel, I have gone through periods of depression followed by a period of elation when we reached the end of the book. As a woman from lma, I feel similar periods of depression as I watch the dirt blowing and listen to the wind howling. I also know I’ll feel that period of elation when the rains come again and our land comes to life. Let’s just remind each other that we are one day closer to that rain and that we will enjoy quiet days in the future.
Lynn Moncus is a Tucumcari resident and can be contacted through the Quay County Sun at 461-1952.