GUEST COLUMN: Memories of the Depression, Dust Bowl in Carroll County

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Editor's note: As Arkansas is experiences a severe drought along with a problematic national economy CCN reader Kathryn Farwell recently explored her father's memories of both the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl periods, which he survived as a youngster living in Carroll County. Following are Wayne Farwell's recollections of Carroll County during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl era.

The Depression

During the Depression most people in Carroll County had very little money to buy food and clothes. There were several families in the area that received food from their neighbors.

We gave food to one family that lived near us. Some banks closed their doors to keep people from drawing out their money.

The summers were hot, 100-110 degrees in the daytime. We had no air conditioning or electricity. We slept out under the trees at night.

The government shipped in grain by train for livestock feed. The grain kept the stock from starving -- also some families cooked the grain for food.

It was almost impossible to sell livestock in the early 30's, so the government bought cattle. The price they gave was $10 a head; my dad sold them several head. After the government bought the cattle, they shot them, piled them up, and burned them.

The government also had a program to buy hogs in the early '30s, but they wouldn't buy hogs that were earmarked. That was a problem because we had open range in those days, and most farmers identified their hogs by cutting their hogs' ears a specific way.

My dad had 30-40 pigs, but they were earmarked. My dad solved the problem by sawing off a tree about 6 inches from the ground and using the flat surface to cut away enough of the pigs' ears to get rid of their earmarks.

It took about two months for the ears to heal -- and then we were ready to sell them to the government. The government agent remarked that our hogs were the shortest-eared hogs he ever bought.

The Dust Bowl

Well, I have several memories of the Dust Bowl. Most of the springs and wells went dry because we had very little rainfall from March to October for a couple of years. This forced the farmers in my area to either drive their stock to Kings River or White River to water every other day.

Kings River stopped running, but it still had water in the deeper holes. One of the deep holes was just under the King's River bridge between Golden and Carr Lane on 86 -- of course, there was no bridge or 86 at that time.

It was so dry in summer that grass could not grow, so the farmers cut down living trees so stock could eat the green leaves.

Dust covered the trees and bushes so whenever you were out walking through the brush, dust would fall off and cloud up to the point that it almost choked you.

There was another reason it was unpleasant to walk in the brush. There were a lot of what the farmers called locusts during that time -- and they made a real racket. I often chose to walk out in the fields just to get away from the dust and the racket.

* * *

About the authors: Wayne Farwell is a 90-year-old resident of Carroll County who has lived in this area all his life; his daughter, Dr. Kathryn Farwell, is home visiting for the summer. She is a part-time professor of nursing at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Mo.