from A Year of Morning Thanks
Today is the anniversary of Black Sunday, the day in 1935 when a windstorm picked up a part of the Great Plains and blew it elsewhere, as far east as New York. Tons of drought-stricken topsoil that had been plowed up, often for the first time, by thousands of mechanical tractors on the southern Plains, were carried elsewhere by mighty winds, the advent of the Dust Bowl. Then, as always, people were looking to get rich. No one thought much about the land.
Once the cloud arrived, people saw it wasn’t hail or rain, but dust so thick some of them got lost just a few yards from their homes. Some died, months later, when it filled up their lungs. Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time tells the story as well as any book I've ever read.
Last year a woman from South Dakota told me she was sitting in church when it came that day. Soon, all she could make out at the front was the shine of the pastor’s white shirt.
I’m not thankful for Black Sunday or the Dust Bowl, but I’m very thankful to know that history is capable of teaching us very specific lessons, out here on the Plains as elsewhere, moral lessons we neglect, as we do so easily, at our peril.