New book looks at those who survived and stayed
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
Many authors have written about the devastation of the Dust Bowl in the Dirty Thirties and the exodus from the area to find a better life.
A new book by Hooker, Okla., author Gwen Stevens Hanson chronicles the faith, grit, strength and determination of those who chose to stay despite the obstacles.
“It’s memoirs that I, basically, started out for my children,” she said of her work “The Farmer’s Daughter.” “I submitted it for publication, and they accepted it. It goes clear back into the 1800s, just a sketchy history of this area. It goes into the Dust Bowl.”
Hanson’s book tells of her family’s slow rise from poverty to prosperity with humor and nostalgia.
“It’s historical,” she said. “I hope it’s funny. I hope people get a laugh. Most people who’ve read it do.”
The book is a true story, with one exception, of a family slowly making their way to a better life and facing trials head on. Hanson explained the one falsehood in the book.
“It’s a Christian publication, and the cop did not call my brother a son of a gun as stated in the book,” she said. “Since it’s a Christian publisher, I couldn’t say what he said.”
The Farmer’s Daughter has stories about towns in not only the Oklahoma Panhandle, but also Southwest Kansas and the Texas Panhandle.
“It has lots about Liberal,” Hanson said. “It has lots about Stevens County and of course, Hooker and Texas County, Amarillo, Texas. It’s just a lot of history and nostalgia.”
Hanson herself was born in December 1938 near the end of the Dust Bowl, initially living in a two-room house with an older sister.
“I graduated from Hooker High School in 1956,” she said. “I married a week after I got out of high school, had four children in as many years.”
The author spins tales of her life as a young wife and mother. She touches on the loss of her eyesight, her independence and lengthy partial recovery. Hanson also goes into the death of her father and the sinking realization that her mother had Alzheimer’s.
“It’s just a lot of funny stuff about my children, about myself,” she said. “No one laughs at me more than I do. Kind of how things were in a more simpler life and more patriotic life.”
Hanson said there is a small portion of politics in the book.
“We didn’t ask for help to get out of the mess,” she said. “We worked our way out instead of asking the government for help.”
Hanson, who will turn 75 in December, is a lifetime resident of the area, having been born in Stevens County and spending the rest of her life in Texas. County.
She said her aunts gave her much of the history that went into her book.
“I understand this area was very prosperous when the rest of the country started going down,” she said. “It’s word of mouth and memories of what I remember.”
The Farmer’s Daughter is now available nationwide, and Hanson said orders for the book can be done at several places on the Internet.
“Amazon, you can get on it right now,” she said. “Barnes and Noble, it comes up, but it says you can’t order it. Hastings shoots you to my publisher.”
While her book is filled with the history of the late 1800s and a good chunk of the 1900s, Hanson said she wished she had learned more about her family’s journey earlier in life.
“I regret I didn’t ask my parents more,” she said. “They didn’t talk about being poor. I didn’t know I was poor. No one told me.”
And while things may have been difficult before their marriage, Hanson said her parents’ footsteps constantly went in a positive direction after tying the knot.
“When my parents got married, they were always going uphill,” she said. “Things were getting better every day. Things got a little better every year after year after year.”
Hanson’s publicist called The Farmer’s Daughter “a feel-good story about attaining the great American Dream if one is willing to work hard and sacrifice.”
“This is an inspirational story with a bit of politics that will make readers both laugh and shed a few tears as they read,” the company’s press release said.