On Living with Dust Storms

We had the low dust blowing off of the fields and my mother was expecting my sister in 1933, and she said, “We’ve got to get to town and stay in town, because a dust storm might come.” And she couldn’t breathe good because she was expecting.

While I was in school, we had an old building that was two stories and the teachers would tell us when these dust storms were rolling in to get under the stairs so that we would be protected by the stairway.

Once in a while it’d go all day and all night and maybe blow for a week. And our parents had to turn the plates upside-down on the tables and cover 'em with a sheet, or whatever, and the babies, they slept with wet sheets over their cribs so that they wouldn’t breathe all that dirt.

One time I didn’t quite get back to the cellar before the dirt hit and I can remember that the wind and the gravel felt like it burned my legs. And my daddy took the ax in case it covered up the door and he had to break the wood in the cellar door to get us out. Then, he needed the scoop to get the dirt out. The hoe had the longest handle and he could poke it up through the vent in the ceiling of the cellar to be sure that we were getting air.

One night the ceiling started falling in with the dust so heavy on it. They all got outside as soon as they knew that the ceiling was fallin’ in as a result of the dust sifting in. The dust was just like face powder. It was so heavy and thick. It wasn’t like sand. Only it was real dark, almost black.

When those dust storms blew, it would just coat the inside of your nose literally. And sometimes your mouth would just get cottony dry because, well, you spit out dirt sometimes.

I just thought I was one of the lucky people, and I was. I didn’t have to do a lotta things that other students or kids did. I felt like my daddy took better care of me than anybody. We lived literally on cornbread and beans and we had milk.

Source: On Living with Dust Storms
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