Monday, November 26, 2007

prairie tumbleweed farm

The Farm And Ranch Museum, which started as just a concept in 1988, is about ready to open its new building addition.
"It won't be done by Dec. 1, but it will be awfully close," said FARM volunteer Nancy Haney. "The floor is going down this week. Then we have all those last minute details that need to be taken care of."
Some of the challenges to finishing the projects included a coat closet that was too small, countertops that were too short, and a sprinkler system that wasn't part of the original specifications but was later required.
The expanded FARM building will also take advantage of geothermal heating and cooling, which is being currently installed on the north side of the museum.
The new addition will include restrooms, an exhibit hall, and a library of the area's agricultural history, a meeting room, and gift shop. The building was designed to resemble a large barn that has a panoramic view of the Scotts Bluff National Monument.
FARM also has 110 acres of adjacent land to the east of the monument. Much of it is planted during the growing season. Those crops are used during the museum's annual Harvest Festival to demonstrate how farming was done in the past.
As the museum expands, volunteers keep true to the vision of "creating a museum that will preserve and demonstrate our agricultural history and the important changes in farm equipment and cultural practices that have made this region of the High Plains productive."
Haney said the new addition would also give the museum more opportunities to host equipment demonstrations and other events. Next year, the museum will host a convention for collectors of Minneapolis Moline farm equipment.
Although the new addition won't be completely done, FARM volunteers are still preparing to host the museum's annual High Plains Christmas.
On Saturday, Dec. 1, the public is invited to the museum from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. there will be horse drawn hayrides, hot chocolate, cowboy coffee, and marshmallows roasted over a fire.
Country crafters will be filling the exhibit hall with their unique gift items. The tumbleweed Christmas tree will also be on display.
Kids are invited to write their letters to Santa, which will be delivered via Pony Express rider to Santa Village at the Gering Civic Center.
Lunch will also be available, featuring ham and bean or potato soup, homemade bread, and brownies served by FARM volunteers. There will also be hot dogs on the kids' menu. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids.
"The High Plains Christmas is one of those really fun activities," Haney said. " The same day, the North Platte Valley Museum has its Trees Along the Trail display and the monument is having its Christmas on the Prairie celebration. Santa' Village is also open, so there's plenty of things to do in Gering."
The dust storms that terrorized the High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since. Timothy Egan's critically acclaimed account rescues this iconic chapter of American history from the shadows in a tour de force of historical reportage. Following a dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, Egan tells of their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black dust blizzards, crop failure, and the death of loved ones. Brilliantly capturing the terrifying drama of catastrophe, Egan does equal justice to the human characters who become his heroes, "the stoic, long-suffering men and women whose lives he opens up with urgency and respect" (The New York Times).

In an era that promises ever-greater natural disasters, The Worst Hard Time is "arguably the best nonfiction book yet" (Austin Statesman Journal) on the greatest environmental disaster ever to be visited upon our land and a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of trifling with nature.


Winner of the 2006 National Book Award for Nonfiction

Timothy Egan is a national enterprise reporter for The New York Times. He is the author of five books and the recipient of several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

Author biography courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Company.


Mr. Egan makes this iconic material fresh by focusing on the plight of a handful of families from the hardest-hit bottom of the Dust Bowl, the western edge of the Oklahoma Panhandle known as No Man's Land; Dallam County due south in the Texas Panhandle; and Baca County in southeastern Colorado. - David Laskin, The New York Times

Timothy Egan's searing history of the economic and ecological collapse of the southern Great Plains during the 1930s is an epic cautionary tale. Intertwining the stories of roughly a dozen individuals and families with a grim overview of the region-wide disaster, Egan's fluent narrative chronicles the terrifying consequences of a reckless hubris that in a few decades stripped the earth of prairie grass that for centuries had protected it from erosion. The American people and their government collaborated in transforming a sea of waving, waist-high bluestem -- described by William Clark on his expedition west with Meriwether Lewis in 1804 as "one of the most pleasing prospects I ever beheld" -- into a blasted landscape of abandoned farms surrounded by four-foot drifts of dust, scattered with dead farm animals and useless equipment. - Wendy Smith, The Washington Post

On April 14, 1935, the biggest dust storm on record descended over five states, from the Dakotas to Amarillo, Texas. People standing a few feet apart could not see each other; if they touched, they risked being knocked over by the static electricity that the dust created in the air. The Dust Bowl was the product of reckless, market-driven farming that had so abused the land that, when dry weather came, the wind lifted up millions of acres of topsoil and whipped it around in "black blizzards," which blew as far east as New York. This ecological disaster rapidly disfigured whole communities. Egan's portraits of the families who stayed behind are sobering and far less familiar than those of the "exodusters" who staggered out of the High Plains. He tells of towns depopulated to this day, a mother who watched her baby die of "dust pneumonia," and farmers who gathered tumbleweed as food for their cattle and, eventually, for their children. - The New Yorker

Egan tells an extraordinary tale in this visceral account of how America's great, grassy plains turned to dust, and how the ferocious plains winds stirred up an endless series of "black blizzards" that were like a biblical plague: "Dust clouds boiled up, ten thousand feet or more in the sky, and rolled like moving mountains" in what became known as the Dust Bowl. But the plague was man-made, as Egan shows: the plains weren't suited to farming, and plowing up the grass to plant wheat, along with a confluence of economic disaster-the Depression-and natural disaster-eight years of drought-resulted in an ecological and human catastrophe that Egan details with stunning specificity. He grounds his tale in portraits of the people who settled the plains: hardy Americans and immigrants desperate for a piece of land to call their own and lured by the lies of promoters who said the ground was arable. Egan's interviews with survivors produce tales of courage and suffering: Hazel Lucas, for instance, dared to give birth in the midst of the blight only to see her baby die of "dust pneumonia" when her lungs clogged with the airborne dirt. With characters who seem to have sprung from a novel by Sinclair Lewis or Steinbeck, and Egan's powerful writing, this account will long remain in readers' minds. copyright 2005 Reed Business Information

What happened when dust clouds settled over the Plains during the Depression? A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times revisits the little-told story. An in-house favorite that's attracting huge attention. copyright 2005 Reed Business Information

Grim, riveting account by New York Times reporter Egan makes clear that, although hurricanes and floods have grabbed recent headlines, America's worst assault from Mother Nature came in the form of ten long years of drought and dust. The "dust bowl" of the 1930s covered 100 million acres spread over five states: Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska and Colorado. From 1930 to 1935, nearly a million people left their farms, littered with animal corpses and stunted crops. Schools closed. Towns simply disappeared. Thousands died from "dust pneumonia," a new condition born of swallowing and inhaling the swirling topsoil. The author personalizes this tragedy by focusing on a handful of hardy settlers who came to America's heartland with high hopes and boundless energy, then watched with growing despair as the earth turned against them.

In truth, the dust bowl was largely a human creation. The great southern plains, once covered with native grasses that fed the buffalo and held the soil in place, were essentially stripped bare in the 1920s by wheat-farmers eager to cash in on cheap land and high grain prices. The newly invented tractor made the job easier, and unusually wet weather in the late '20s made farming on the arid plains seem feasible. But then the Depression hit, wheat prices crashed and once-bountiful farms went fallow, abandoned to the deepening drought and ever-blowing winds that literally sent the soil skyward. In the midst of disaster, Egan finds heroes. Among them is country physician Doc Dawson, who opened a sanitarium for dust pneumonia victims, lost all his money farming and spent his last, penniless years running a soup kitchen. Stark and powerful, a gripping if depressing read and a timely reminder that a Nature abused can exact a terrible retribution.


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