Yesterday was the anniversary of Black Sunday, the day in 1935 when a windstorm picked up a part of the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles and blew it elsewhere across the southern Plains. Tons of drought-stricken topsoil that had been plowed up (often for the first time) by thousands of mechanical tractors on the southern Plains billowed up by mighty winds, the first great day of the Dust Bowl.
Land rush did it, and the age-old desire to get rich. No one thought much about the land, no white men anyway. Horrible, inescapable drought that turned the recently-turned topsoil into sand.
Once the cloud covered the southwestern sky, 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.
A woman from South Dakota told me she was sitting in church when a huge dust storm came to that state sometime earlier. Soon, the air even inside the sanctuary so thick with dust, all she could make out up front behind the pulpit was the shine of the pastor’s white shirt.