Out of the Dust: 1936

The dust storm raged outside my family’s general store, howling and tearing at the walls. Dust filled the storeroom, seeping from every crack and hole in the walls. I cowered in the corner trying to shield my face from the dust blowing in. My mind was racing, wondering if my friend John was all right. He had just left the store thirty minutes before the dust storm hit, completely unaware of the impending danger. All the stress of the situation only made me angrier at the people who caused this “Dust Bowl”. I would always remember president Roosevelt’s words, “A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself.” In my eyes this problem could’ve been avoided, so I blamed everyone involved for the pain it caused me. My angry thoughts were interrupted by a faint knocking sound coming from the front end of the store.
I thought surely that couldn’t be a anyone, nobody could possibly get around in a storm like this.
I was wrong. Someone was yelling at the top of their lungs. They were desperately trying to enter, seeking shelter from the piercing dust that was blasting between the buildings surrounding the store.
I rushed into the main room of the store and I quickly opened the door. Before me was a man covered from head to toe in dust. It was Mr. Richardson, John’s father, and he looked like he had the energy drained right out of him. I quickly shut the door behind him and helped him to the counter.
“Mr. Richardson can you tell me what happened? I think I have some medical supplies in the storeroom if you need them.”
Mr. Richardson didn’t answer my first question, I could tell he was hiding something from me.
“No don’t bother with that, I just need water,” He said, holding back a cough.
“I’ll see if I can find some in the cooler. You should stay there.”
“No no, I’ll go to the back room, there’s dust blowing in through the windows.”
I nodded, knowing that Mr. Richardson would do what he wanted, no matter what I suggested.
As I searched the room for water I became lost in my thoughts about the time before the drought and the storms. Since the start of the depression times had been hard for my family, and when the dust storms came our lives were made even harder. Since people were so short on money the business struggled to make any profit. Whenever I asked my parents about our situation they would always tell me that God would help us through our hardship. I believed them at first, but I couldn’t say I did anymore, especially since their deaths came so sudden. I thought, how could a loving God let such a horrible thing happen to good people?
I regained my focus after finding a pitcher of water in the cooler under the front desk. There was no time to think about such things, I had to help Mr. Richardson. I found him sitting down in the corner of the storage, and he looked worried about something. I cautiously sat down next to him.
“Hey Mr. Richardson, where’s John, is he alright, please tell me he’s not —”
“He’s out there in the storm,” He interrupted. “About an hour ago he showed up at the house and stole my truck. I tried to warn him about the storm but he didn’t hear me. I chased the truck half a mile, couldn’t stop him.”
“How come you gave up, we need to get out there and find him!”
“I didn’t give up, I would never purposely abandon my son. Unfortunately the storm hit me while I was chasing after the car. Reckon the cloud was taller than that new dam they built up in Colorado. John was talkin’ about how much he wanted to go out and get one of the jobs the Works Progress Administration was offering.” He sighed, tears building up in his eyes. “He didn’t run away to get away from us, he wanted to get a job. He wanted to get enough money for our family to survive, with me being out of a job.”
“Maybe he’s ok,” I attempted to reassure him. “After all, he was in your automobile, he probably just shut the windows.”
He didn’t reply.
I saw that Mr. Robinson had begun to pray. He was desperately asking God to protect his son. I almost joined him but I stopped myself. I thought, how could I pray to something that I wasn’t even sure was real. But when I saw how concerned he was I decided to join him, at least maybe it would make him feel better.
I turned the radio on and surprisingly it was receiving signal. I figured this was because the storm was finally clearing up.
“Joe tries for the wild right and misses, Jack weaves inside and lands a right and to the body!” Said the boxing announcer over the radio.
I wanted to listen to the match but I knew the weather was more important so I switched it to the local broadcast.
“For anyone currently receiving this broadcast, we are happy to inform you that the storm will be clearing up across the county very soon.”
After the storm cleared up I ran to the police station. For some reason the doors were locked, but luckily an officer saw me through the window and let me it. The man asked me what was wrong and I told him the whole story.
The officer shook his head, “I don’t know what tell you, we’ll send a search team out as soon as we can but none of our cars are working and half of our men went missing during that storm. You’ll have to wait, priorities first. I’m sorry.”
“There’s a guy out there stranded in the middle of nowhere. He’s probably trapped in his car. You can’t even send one guy to look for him?”
“Listen, before we look for civilians we have to find our other officers.”
“Fine, I’ll just have to look for him myself.” I turned around and headed for the exit.
“Wait we can’t have another missing person on our hands!”
I ignored him and left the building.
The heat was unbearable and dust still blew about in the wind. The directions Mr. Robinson gave me were unclear, but I kept going. I tried not to think about the worst scenario. What if I found him dead, what would I tell his father. I couldn’t bear losing another person close to me, I was emotionally drained. The Robinson’s were the only people I had left after my parents died of dust pneumonia. I tried not to think about it and continued on my way.
Three hours into my search I saw something off in the distance. My heart stopped for a split second as all my built up anxiety almost got the best of me. I ran up the hill where I came upon a small road situated in between two hills. Mr. Robinson’s Model A was standing right between the two hills.
As I got behind the car I saw John leaning against it. I called to him but there was no answer. Before I could panic I saw that he was breathing. I had never been more relieved in my life. The problem now was that he was in desperate need of a doctor and we were miles out of town.
As I lifted him up into the passenger seat of the car I noticed the sky was darker than it was before. As soon as I felt the wind begin to pick up I began to panic because I knew what was coming. Once you see them, there’s not much time left.
I pulled out of the roadway and to my left my eyes met with a billowing brown wall on the horizon. Fight or flight responses kicked in and I drove as fast as I could towards the town. I thought maybe I could make it, maybe I could just reach the town before the wall hits.
It was only a matter of minutes before the dust cloud was right behind us, no matter how fast I drove. It was inescapable. As the cloud hit the car was violently shaken and dust surrounded the windows. It was impossible to see more than five feet in front of me.
In my most hopeless moment I remembered what my parents had told me. If you are lost, with no foreseeable way out God will get you through. I kept going, knowing that if I stopped the car would be buried by the dust. I had no idea if I was even going in the right direction. It felt like hours had passed in a few minutes. Dust was blowing in through the vent and I could taste it. It became harder to breath and I became lightheaded. As the world began to fade to black around me, the headlights of the car shone on a wall. I slammed on the brakes, stopping inches from the wall. I pulled myself together and dragged John inside. I knew there was no way I could have gone in the right direction on my own. I realized what my parents had told was true all along.

Works Cited
John T. Woolley. “Letter to all State Governors on a Uniform Soil Conservation Law.” The American Presidency Project. February 26, 1937. Web. 2 February 2018.
“Joe Louis Vs Jack Sharkey.” Old Time Radio Downloads. Web. 2 February 2018.

Duncan, Dayton. The Dust Bowl an Illustrated History. Chronicle Books, 2012. Print.
Egan, Timothy. Book Club Kit: the Worst Hard Time: the Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006. Print.
Reis, Ronald A. The Dust Bowl. Chelsea House, 2008. Print.