The Worst Hard Time

The Worst Hard Time

by

Timothy Egan

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A farmer from Inavale, Nebraska, a town on the Kansas-Nebraska border. His family moved to Nebraska in 1880. He was married to Vera Hartwell, who earned income by selling dresses. Don earned additional income as a piano player, playing at dances and in local lodges. He left behind a diary which he started on New Years’ Day, 1936, and his entries chronicled the Dust Bowl. When they could no longer farm, his wife moved to Denver, Colorado to work as a doctor’s maid. Unable to find work in Denver, Don went back to Inavale, where he found part-time work on a government road crew. The couple, who had been married for 26 years and never spent time apart before the Dust Bowl, soon saw each other just every few years on holidays.
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Don Hartwell Character Timeline in The Worst Hard Time

The timeline below shows where the character Don Hartwell appears in The Worst Hard Time. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 19: Witnesses
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
Don Hartwell started a diary on New Year’s Day, 1936. He and his wife, Verna, had lived... (full context)
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
Hartwell wrote that most narratives tended to be about “noble pioneers,” but the women and children... (full context)
Westward Expansion and the Settlement of the Southern Plains Theme Icon
Economic Hardship and Lessons of the Great Depression Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
Hartwell’s family had arrived in Nebraska in 1880. His mother never adjusted to the state, which... (full context)
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
Egan chronicles a selection of Hartwell’s thoughts from the worst years of the storms. They include mundane thoughts about holiday customs,... (full context)
Chapter 22: Cornhusker II
Economic Hardship and Lessons of the Great Depression Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
Don Hartwell was worried about his health, and 1936 seemed like the driest year ever in Webster... (full context)
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
In Hartwell’s entries from January to July, he wrote about outbreaks of influenza and smallpox and the... (full context)
Chapter 24: Cornhusker III
Economic Hardship and Lessons of the Great Depression Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
...748 years. At the start of August 1937, rain still did not fall. When Don Hartwell put a thermometer in the ground, it registered 151 degrees. His farm was down to... (full context)
Economic Hardship and Lessons of the Great Depression Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
Hartwell’s entries from August to November describe unbearable heat and the destruction of crops. Again, Hartwell... (full context)
Economic Hardship and Lessons of the Great Depression Theme Icon
The City vs. the Country Theme Icon
The communities around the Hartwell farm were also disappearing. One of his friends left for Wyoming, saying he would return,... (full context)
Economic Hardship and Lessons of the Great Depression Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
Verna, Hartwell’s wife, managed to take in some sewing work, but their electricity was turned off on... (full context)
Economic Hardship and Lessons of the Great Depression Theme Icon
July felt like hell with its dry, deadly winds. Hartwell wrote in his diary that he felt lost without his horses, and that he and... (full context)
Economic Hardship and Lessons of the Great Depression Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
Hartwell’s diary entries for the end of the year chronicle how much he missed his wife.... (full context)
Economic Hardship and Lessons of the Great Depression Theme Icon
Environmental Devastation and the Dust Bowl Theme Icon
Hartwell’s entries for 1939 depict his loneliness. In late February, the bank foreclosed on his farm.... (full context)
Epilogue
The City vs. the Country Theme Icon
...99. She told her grandchildren that she missed No Man’s Land. Inavale, Nebraska, where Don Hartwell lived, is a ghost town. A neighbor stopped Verna Hartwell from burning her husband’s diary,... (full context)