Holyoke, Colorado

It's bad enough when you eat your lunch in the harvest field and the dust gets all over your sandwich, but can you imagine heavy dust, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for years?  That was life during the Dust Bowl on the Great Plains in the 1930's. The Dust Bowl, also known as the Dirty Thirties, was a period of severe dust storms that greatly damaged the ecology and agriculture of the American and Canadian prairies during the 1930s; severe drought and a failure to apply dryland farming methods to prevent the wind erosion caused the phenomenon. The drought came in three waves, 1934, 1936, and 1939–1940, but some regions of the high plains experienced drought conditions for as many as eight years. With insufficient understanding of the ecology of the plains, farmers had conducted extensive deep plowing of the virgin topsoil of the Great Plains during the previous decade; this had displaced the native, deep-rooted grasses that normally trapped soil and moisture even during periods of drought and high winds. The rapid mechanization of farm equipment, especially small gasoline tractors, and widespread use of the combine harvester contributed to farmers' decisions to convert arid grassland, much of which received no more than 10 inches of precipitation per year to cultivated cropland.  During the drought of the 1930s, the unanchored soil turned to dust, which the prevailing winds blew away in huge clouds that sometimes blackened the sky. These choking billows of dust – named "black blizzards" or "black rollers" – traveled cross country, reaching as far as the East Coast choking such cities as New York City and Washington, D.C. On the plains, they often reduced visibility to 3 feet or less. On April 14, 1935, known as "Black Sunday", 20 of the worst "black blizzards" occurred across the entire sweep of the Great Plains, from Canada south to Texas. The dust storms caused extensive damage and turned the day to night; witnesses reported that they could not see five feet in front of them at times. Imagine having that fine sand blowing in your face, getting into your home and wreaking havoc on your livestock - it was devastating.  Phillips County wasn't hit as hard with the blowing dust as southern Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma, but the drought, dust and lower than low grain prices coupled along with the economics of the The Great Depression took its toll on our folks.  Phillips County survived and bounced back from what may have seemed like un-surmountable odds to become a prosperous community.  We have a few pictures of the Dust Bowl at the museum.  We invite you come on in and see them.