The Worst Times Hard Ever is a book by Timothy Egan, an experienced author and Pulitzer-prize winner as a journalist with the New York Times. The book is about the dust storms that scared Americans in the High Plains in the 1930’s during the long and dark days of the Great Depression. This was a phenomenon like no other. Egan tries to look at the cause of these terrorizing storms by telling the tales of the people who held on and survived this massive calamity. This paper will provide an account of Timothy Egan’s book, The Worst Times Hard Ever, by recounting some of the major events in the book.
The Worst Times Hard ever is written like a classic disaster account of the Great Depression in the 1930’s in Texas and Oklahoma. The nesters, who are the main characters in the book, farmed around the High American plains in Oklahoma and Texas. The land in the area was lush green, due to the type of ecosystem. People around the plains were warned against acute methods of farming. However, some of them continued because of hard times of the economic toils of prior years. Soon after the warnings the dust storms as high as ten thousand foot ripped across the magnificent landscape killing people and animals through dust chokes, and drying the landscape and leaving the area plain and bare.
Egan paints the grim picture of the dust storms and their impact on humans, animals, property and vegetation. The dust storms travelled at speeds of about fifty miles per hour, slating paint from buildings, crushing trees and destroying cars as they settled to make fifty-foot high dunes. Egan describes the tragedy that fell as scavenger grasshoppers cleared any remaining vegetation, spared by the drought, hail and tornadoes that had occurred. The author mentions children perishing from sicknesses such as pneumonia, arising as a consequence of dust. Carcasses of livestock littered the land as they suffocated and died from the dust. Doors were taped, and windows covered with fresh sheets to avoid the dust from entering the houses. Cleaning houses was a gargantuan task and could only be done by the use of shovels. In recounting the effects of these dust storms, Egan gives a vivid description, got from narrations of some survivors of the worst dust storm in the country’s history to date.
Egan catches the story of the Nestor’s survival during the Dust storm creatively. Banks, churches, schools, markets and other facilities closed down due to the scarcity in food rations. The Nestor’s has put all their efforts to survive the dust storm. They went to extreme measures to curb the storm by paying rain dealers to launch explosives into the sky so that it could rain. They even tried to kill thousands of rabbits, poured boiled water on tarantulas and centipedes on their walls, pickled tumbleweed and even ate yucca roots. Still the storm persevered, and the torture never stopped.
Egan recounts the story of the dust storm vividly through the lives of the storm survivors. The recounts are not only vivid, but also quite realistic as they depict the humane side of America during the dust bowl years. The story is told in a narrative and non-fiction manner due to Egan’s access to the survivors and historical data. One of the most moving parts of the story is Don Hartwell’s Diary. Hartwell’s diary shows how his farm declined to unplowed field, destroying his family and community.
The Worst Times Hard Ever takes a closer look at the causes of the dust bowl. Egan shows president Roosevelt’s attitude to the effects of the Dust Storms. Roosevelt saw the dust storm as a natural calamity that made him consider relief as the only option for those who were affected. Egan lauds Roosevelt’s effort in trying to reduce the human disaster in the area. He says that Roosevelt airlifted and donated food to those, who were affected, as he created new jobs, paid farmers and kept everything in his hands to stop people’s suffering. However, The Worst Times Hard Ever then delves into the major question of the cause of the dust storm. Some people have viewed it as a natural calamity that was going to have long-term effects. Others saw it as a short-term drought period. However, the question of human interference with nature as a cause of the dust storm was always fronted.
After some time, some of Roosevelt’s chief advisors, who were soil scientists, informed the president that the major cause of the dust storms was human activities. Egan says that Hugh Bennet, the soil scientist, who was one of Roosevelt’s advisors, told the president that the high plains used to experience little or no rainfall at all. Wheat farmers speculated on the land value in trying to outwit their losses by plowing more land and planting more wheat. However, due to crash in prices of wheat, most farmers abandoned their land leading to the soil calcifying and going airborne. This soil formed the dust storms.
In conclusion, The Worst Time Hard Ever attributes the blame in this calamity to the government. The book states that the government cleared the bison from the fields to make way for cattle. The government went to extreme measures to lure settlers and encourage them to plow in these areas, putting the aim of settling wartime demands, which, on their part, encouraged a number of unsustainable practices.