• Special to the Daily Leader
Dust storms were a fact of life in the Great Plains area during the 1930s. By April 1935, there had been weeks of dust storms, but the cloud that appeared on the horizon that Palm Sunday, April 14, was the worst. Winds were clocked at 60 mph. Then it hit.
“The impact is like a shovelful of fine sand flung against the face,” Avis D. Carlson wrote in a New Republic article. “People caught in their own yards grope for the doorstep. Cars come to a standstill, for no light in the world can penetrate that swirling murk. We live with the dust, eat it, sleep with it, watch it strip us of possessions and the hope of possessions.”
The day after Black Sunday, an Associated Press reporter used the term “Dust Bowl” for the first time. “Three little words achingly familiar on the Western farmer’s tongue, rule life in the dust bowl of the continent – if it rains.” The term stuck and was used by radio reporters and writers, in private letters and public speeches.
Seventy-five years later, the memories of the Dust Bowl still define the Panhandle area, and everyone is invited to remember that day the weekend of April 9-10 in Guymon, Okla., at “Drought, Displacement and Determination: A Dust Bowl Symposium.”
The two-day event will feature numerous speakers and an opportunity for those who lived through the Dust Bowl to share their memories. Major funding for the event has been provided by the Oklahoma Humanities Council.
Friday, April 9, the movie “The Grapes of Wrath” and the documentary “The Plow that Broke the Plains” will be shown.
Saturday events will take place at Draper Farms west of Guymon. Signs along U.S. Highway 54 will direct attendees to the site. At 8:30 a.m., everyone is invited to gather and enjoy Dust Bowl images and memories.
Former Guymon mayor Jess Nelson will give the welcome and introduce Dr. Paul Bonnifield, author of The Dust Bowl: Men, Dirt and Depression. Bonnifield published the book in 1979 after a teaching stint at OPSU where he had access to source material at No Man’s Land Museum, the local Soil Conservation office and in visits with survivors. As Bonnifield puts it, “I was at ground zero.” The Colorado native will speak on the topic “The Days of the Dust Bowl.”
There will be an open microphone during periods throughout the day facilitated by Dr. Sara Jane Richter, head of the humanities department at OPSU. Richter is also the author of a readers’ theater production “If Only It’d Rain” and will give her well-researched talk, “Down and Dirty, But Not Out: Women of the High Plains During the Dust Bowl.”
Concessions will be available at noon as well as activities for school-age children arranged by the Texas County 4-Hers.
Other speakers for the day include Gary McManus of the Oklahoma Climatalogical Survey, Steve Drillette of the National Weather Service, Ray Wanger, Oklahoma CRP Program Director, Dr. Pauline Hodges and Mark Harrison, Oklahoma Conservation Commission.
A soup line supper will be hosted followed by a talk by Dr. Guy Logsdon on “Music in Oklahoma in the 1930s.” Logsdon will also lead a gospel sing-along. The evening will end with dancing.
For a complete schedule of events with times, see the event Web site at thegritinyourteeth.com.
Other generous sponsors who are helping with the event include the Guymon Public Library, Guymon Convention and Tourism, Tri-County Electric, City National Bank of Guymon, Jimmie and Carrie Lou Draper, PTCI, Bank of the Panhandle, Mid-First Bank, The Willows (David Kidwell) and Guymon Enrichment Foundation.