It’s hard to imagine now but try. It was fields of gold. There was nothing like it. It was a paradise, the flyers announced, with soil rich as chocolate. There would be peace in the valley, we sang, and believed, and we had the wheat to win the war. Then came the suitcase farmers, to make a killing. They didn’t come to live, just to buy the land and the machines to work it.
They bled it dry. What followed looked like vengeance, except that the killers had already fled. What was left was those of us still working by foot and horse, to get by. We’d sing on Sundays, still, and our spirit shall sorrow no more. By and by, we gave up trying to keep dirt off the children’s faces during the week. They’d spit and it would look like they’d been chewing tobacco.
Suddenly, the sky cleared up. Hallelujah, we said, to witness blue again. We washed the children’s faces, went to church, even packed a picnic. But then, in the afternoon, it got suddenly cool. You could see a cloud in the distance, dark and low, rolling in on itself. The birds took off. When it rolled over us, I looked for my own hand. I brought it up and even when it touched my nose, I still couldn’t see it.
After that, people stopped asking each other, where’s your home? It wasn’t polite. The answer was scattered all over, and it wasn’t the one that any of us wanted to give.
On this day in 1935, the Black Sunday Dust Storm swept across the panhandle region of Oklahoma, Texas, and surrounding regions in the U.S. Sources: Remembering Black Sunday, Smithsonian Magazine, and the photographs of Dorothea Lange and In the Sweet by and by Hymn Lyrics and history.