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                                                                                                Gary Blankenship



          “…it was the season of Darkness …”
          --Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities

Herds no longer roam the High Plains,
chased by painted riders as they were ran
down to cover mid-America’s plains
with “speckled cattle and festive cowboys.”1

The great ranches sold to nesters,
the ground turned root-side up
for the quick riches of two dollar wheat.
The act of plowing will bring rain.2

The great war over, prices dropped;
mountains of grain piled in the streets.
Drought and the crash arrive together
like two Horseman scouting the future.

Grass and ground turned again and again
until the prairie nearly all wrong side up.
Grain sold for a nickel a bushel,
less than a basket of shriveled turnips.

Then the dust came - black, oily roils
of fine soil, sifting into homes, mouths,
machinery, water, stores, the worse
reached as far as the mid-Atlantic.

No relief for farmer or laborer, after all
“If a man hasn’t made a million dollars
by the time he is forty, he is not worth much.”3
No place to hide from the dust, wind, hunger.

Winter, 2006, the High Plains and beyond
burn towards another Black Sunday.4

1. Gen. Philip Sheridan
2. Campbell’s Soil Culture Manual
3. President Herbert Hoover
4. April 14, 1935, Palm Sunday – the worst dust storm in history.

Inspired by Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time, Houghton Mifflin




          “…it was the winter of despair…”
          --Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities

As if an intruder eavesdropping
on a privileged conversation,
I listen to mother and daughter
not listen to each other -

the one dropping memories
faster than a fall maple loses
leaves in a force five blow,
the former parent to a parent

intent on chewing out the child,
seems unaware that all too soon
her winter will arrive, leaving
her limbs naked to the cold.


                                                                                                © Gary Blankenship


triple rule

Loch Raven Review Spring 2006 — Vol. 2, No. 1
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