Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The eternal present...

I'm reading The Worst Hard Time right now, an amazingly gripping history of the Dust Bowl era in the high plains. It's one of those rare history books that is as compelling a page-turner as any novel; I only set it down long enough to sleep last night and picked it up again right after breakfast today, anxious to get back to the story.

My copy was obviously used as a text in a college course. To judge by the yellow highlighter peace signs & flowers and loopy cursive handwriting in the margins, it belonged to someone whose name ended in an "i" with a heart where the dot should be, such as Cindi or Tiffani. The thing that totally derailed me came at the start of Chapter Four, which begins:
By the summer of 1929, the United States had a food surplus, and every town along the rail lines of the southern plains sprouted a tower of unsold wheat, stacked in piles outside grain elevators.
In neat, bubbly cursive in the margin is scribbled "What did they use for elevators back then?"

As LawDog would say: "Ye gods and little fishies..." (...or as Billy Beck would say, "Welcome to the Endarkenment.")

We are truly condemned to repeat it.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

And she votes.

Anonymous said...

Considering where you bought it, maybe she was an Ag or Hort major at Purdue and knew about the history of grain elevators?

Shootin' Buddy

Tam said...

The rest of the marginal evidence, while circumstantial, argues heavily against that theory.

Turk Turon said...

A good book is THE BEST.

They say that W. M. Thackeray picked up The Count Of Monte Cristo at 6 o'clock one morning and didn't put it down until 11 o'clock that night.

Anonymous said...

Turn the pages on a real classic ,"Bad Land", Jonathan Raban...

Michael said...

I'm just curious about what she thinks 'grain elevators' means.

Anonymous said...

So, my theory goes against the grain?

My elevator theory has its ups and downs.

The problem is there is no way to separate the wheat from the chaff on this theory.

Really it is a bit corny.

It's getting late; look at the flour.

Shootin' Buddy

Mark said...

Great. First I crash my right frontal lobe by parsing Tamara truncated as "Tammi" due to the body text, then Shootin' Buddy crashes my left lobe with his punstravaganza.

That's it. I'm oat of here. Maize well quit before the end of the row.

Tam said...

If you ever see me sign off as "Tammi", look for the pods, because the invasion has begun... :o

Mark said...

That was why half my brain crashed.

tickmeister said...

I was driving through Oklahoma with a dude from back east one time and he asked me what those tall white things were that seemed to be in every little town. I successfully convinced him that they were missile silos full of ICBM's. Far as I know he still believes it.

Chas S. Clifton said...

That and Donald Wooster's Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s are the definitive books, I think.

Living at the edge of the Dust Bowl, I think about those days a lot.

There are two sort-of clashing historical narratives that operate.

1. Plowing the Southern Plains was a big mistake.

2. Some of us stuck it out and survived, and we are by-gawd tough.

The weird thing is that people only a few miles away, like Colorado Springs or Denver (upwind of the dust), led their lives as though nothing was going on.

og said...

I'm the child generation of Depression survivors. We scraped for everything, even when scraping was unnecesary. I remember how to scrape, and I would bet even money that everyone at, say, a gunblogger get together, is capable of going into "Live very cheaply" mode at about a moments notice. Some are already there.

This will not be easy. It will be very very hard. But we will make it. And some of making it will mean leaning on each other. Sharing surplus, making do, doing without. I look forward to reading the book, just reserved the copy at the library.

DirtCrashr said...

The funny thing is, they look just like the tall structures we fill with rocks and sand. You can't eat rocks and sand though.
During the Depression Grandpa scraped together enough money to get a Krag - about $1.50 - and shot food to feed his young family. Uncle Oscar rode broncs, did the hobo thing for a while, and got in fights.

Anonymous said...

"If you ever see me sign off as "Tammi""

I believe we will take up a collection and have you put out of your misery by a professional.

.22 One shot. Close range.

It'd be a tribute. ;-)

reflectoscope said...

If nothing else, she at least had her nose in the book.

Jim

Tam said...

"If nothing else, she at least had her nose in the book."

People have had their noses shoved into books in college down through the years and managed to emerge unscathed, as five minute with most any current professor will reveal.

Shermlock Shomes said...

Ahem.

Tam said...

"with most any current professor"

I was thinking of you when I typed that sentence. Ahem. ;)

Sam said...

Kandi used to be a Marine.

I've take o a couple of courses from her.

Shermlock Shomes said...

-chagrined-

CGHill said...

Out in Woodward, Oklahoma, one of the lower levels of the Dust Bowl, there's a grain elevator downtown with a Burger King sitting in its shadow.

One of these days I'm going to figure out exactly what that juxtaposition portends.

reflectoscope said...


People have had their noses shoved into books in college down through the years and managed to emerge unscathed, as five minute with most any current professor will reveal.


This is entirely true also.

Jim

Marja said...

Tammi wouldn't be that bad. Means 'oak' in my language. On the other hand, a lot of real Finnish first names for women end with i, and it's not considered in any way cutesy here, so I suppose I'm not really qualified to judge.

Mal Reynolds said...

Guess who's 67th birthday is in four minutes?

Mine, Caprica!

wrm said...

I am sorely tempted to link to this post on some offbeat pretext, and to credit it to "Tammi".

But my life is worth more than that.

Kristopher said...

I'll cut a life-long cityslicker a little slack.

It's easily possible for someone in the NE to have never seen a grain elevator. When I was a kid, I had no clue that they were different from other elevators until an adult pointed one out for me.

staghounds said...

I have to go with SB on this one. Clearly she read the sentence, and had a real question about elevator technology.

Here's the germ if my idea:

The wood elevators that would have been a common sight in 1930 have largely been replaced by newer ones.

Even early concrete silos and elevators are much more modernistic appearing things than the ordinary buildings of their eras. Someone familiar with the typical low level brick, stone, and wood construction of the 1890-1920 period could be forgiven for thinking a concrete elevator postated the dust bowl.

So if all you saw were the elevators along the tracks in 2005, you might well wonder what they used in 1930.

So she might be a braniac after all.

UNLESS, "for" and "elevators" are transposed...

Joanna said...

I would bet even money that everyone at, say, a gunblogger get together, is capable of going into "Live very cheaply" mode at about a moments notice. Some are already there.

Damn straight. Those are the friends you want to have in times like this.

Borepatch said...

"I'm Tiffani. Fly me!"

Anonymous said...

Donald Worster's book is good BUT he overstates the role of plowing and wheat in the Dust Bowl. The area blew back in the 1830s and earlier, it blew under areas that had never been plowed, and it blows under pastures today. As Geoff Cunfer's more recent book shows, the drought had a lot to do with the dust storms. Worster's work is great, but the story is a lot more complicated than just careless suitcase capitalists destroying the grass.
LittleRed1

Tam said...

Oh, trust me, I'm reading it more as a work of oral history than agronomy and meteorology.

Ken said...

I got to visit an ADM fertilizer, grain, and chemical outlet in Kinsley, KS about four years ago for my then-job.

You can see a looooong way from the top of a grain elevator; the more so in Kansas. Nice place, Kansas, at least in June.

Mark B. said...

"Nice place, Kansas, at least in June."

I think so.

'Berg

Rick said...

Borepatch --

You forgot the obligatory "y" someplace else than where it belongs.

I'm Tyffani. Fly me!"

See Baby's Named a Bad, Bad Thing (http://www.notwithoutmyhandbag.com/babynames/)

Larry Ashcraft said...

I'll be looking for that book today.

My grandparents pulled up stakes in 1935 or 1936 and left the drylands of Matheson Colo. Dad was 7 or 8 years old. Unfortunately, he passed away two years ago and I somehow never got all the stories.

I remember him saying they cover the windows with wet towels, and they would always leave their plates upside down on the table until the food was ready.

theirritablearchitect said...

"...Nice place, Kansas, at least in June..."

HAH!

If you are talking about the temperature, well, maybe, but the general weather is about as stable as a hungry lion. Oh sure, it might look pretty, but don't trust your eyes, as it will turn around on a dime and tear your 'effin head off. Prime tornado season, right there. Can't remember how many I've literally watched from my doorstep, but it's much too much.

If you like June, please come visit in July, when it really gets hot.