DUST BOWL
Natalie Merchant / Christian Burial Music 1989

 

I should know to leave them home
they follow me through the store
with these toys I can't afford
"kids, take them back
you know better than that"
dolls that talk, astronauts, t.v. games, airplanes,
they don't understand
and how can I explain?

I try and try but I can't save
pennies, nickels, dollars slip away
I've tried and tried but I can't save

my youngest girl has bad fever, sure
all night with alcohol
to cool and rub her down
Ruby, I'm tired
try and get some sleep
I'm adding doctor's fees to remedies
with the cost of
three day's work lost

I try and try but I can't save
pennies, nickels, dollars slip away
I've tried and tried but I can't save
the hole in my pocketbook is growing

there's a new wind blowing they say
it's gonna be a cold, cold one
so brace yourselves my darlings
it won't bring anything much our way
but more dust bowl days

I played a card
in this week's game
took the first and the last letters
in three of their names
this lottery's been building up for weeks
I could be lucky me
with the five million prize
tears of disbelief spilling out of my eyes

I try and try but I can't save
pennies, nickels, dollars slip away
I've tried and tried but I can't save
the hole in my pocketbook is growing

there's a new wind blowing they say
it's gonna be a cold, cold one
so brace yourselves my darlings
it won't bring anything much our way
but more dust bowl days



 
 

An Eyewitness Account

Lawrence Svobida, a wheat farmer from Kansas, witnessed first-hand the searing drought and relentless winds that crippled the southern Great Plains during the 1930's. His vivid account is taken from his memoir, "Farming the Dust Bowl."

"...At other times a cloud is seen to be approaching from a distance of many miles. Already it has the banked appearance of a cumulus cloud, but it is black instead of white, and it hangs low, seeming to hug the earth. Instead of being slow to change its form, it appears to be rolling on itself from the crest downward. As it sweeps onward, the landscape is progressively blotted out. Birds fly in terror before the storm, and only those that are strong of wing may escape. The smaller birds fly until they are exhausted, then fall to the ground, to share the fate of the thousands of jack rabbits which perish from suffocation."

Source:  The American Experience: Surviving The Dust Bowl PBS online.
 
 

Brown earth rained down
from sky.
I could not catch my breath
the way the dust pressed
on my chest
and wouldn't stop.
The dirt blew down so thick
and it scratched my eyes
and stung my tender skin,
it plugged my nose and filled
inside my mouth.
No matter how hard I pressed
my lips together,
the dust made muddy tracks
across my tongue


( Out of the Dust  pp143-144. By  Karen Hesse, Scholastic 1997 )
 
 
 

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