Oklahoma Legacies: ‘The awfullest dust we ever did see’


“Black Sunday… that was the awfullest dust we ever did see.”

Obstacles that scatter across the plains states are plenty. But almost always, those challenges are no match for the people who inhabit the plains, especially in Oklahoma.

There’s something within the borders of the frying-pan shape on the map that just doesn’t allow an ounce of quit.

As spring blossoms on the prairie, the sweeping winds come, too. As we are struggling to walk upright and waiting for tumbleweeds to roll on past, we make light-hearted jokes about hitching a ride with Dorothy to Oz.

But we’re well aware that it could be much worse. It has been much worse.

And it also has been overcome — over and over and over again.

From the Oklahomans who suffered through the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, living in tents until it came time to shovel out homes from under the dry sand, to those who inevitably will be picking through rain-soaked belongings after a tornado sends their roof to Wichita this spring…

Oklahomans have grit.

No matter the battle, they all are fought with the same recipe for strength.

After the black blizzards on the prairie 80 years ago, the dry winds eventually settled and the rains came. The resilience grew stronger until the people believed they could hurdle anything in their path.

Oklahomans have seen the depths.

It’s no fun, but we have seen them enough times to have the escape route memorized, almost like it is passed down from generation to generation by birthright.

Maybe that dust was so strong that eight decades later, the grit is simply leftover moxie, like western Oklahoma sand between the teeth.

Sandy grit ingrained in our Okie spirits as a reminder that we are overcomers.

We… are Oklahoma.

–bb

 

A young boy covers his mouth during a dust storm on farm. Cimarron County, Oklahoma. April 1936. Credits: Arthur Rothstein; The Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

A young boy covers his mouth during a dust storm on farm. Cimarron County, Oklahoma. April 1936. The first five photos are courtesy The Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

 

Credit: Library of Congress.

Credit: Library of Congress

Credit: Library of Congress

Praying for rain in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl.

Praying for rain in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl.

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My “Oklahoma Legacies” series is dedicated to chronicling life in my great home state, because ol’ No. 46 makes my heart beat pretty steady and strong. Every person and every place has a story — past and present. These are Oklahoma’s. Click here to see all the posts in my #OKlegacies series.

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