The Worst Hard Time

The Worst Hard Time


Timothy Egan

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Also called, “homesteaders,” they were the people who had settled on the southern High Plains in the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles, southern Nebraska, southeastern Colorado, and northeastern New Mexico. read analysis of Nesters


– A name for the farmers who left the Southern Plains during the 1930s. John Steinbeck is credited with popularizing their narrative. By 1934, there was a “small but steady” exodus of people who left… read analysis of Exodusters

No Man’s Land

A long strip of land “in the far western end of the Oklahoma Panhandle” on the border with Texas. Egan describes the land as windy, dry, and neglected. read analysis of No Man’s Land

Manifest Destiny

The idea that the United States was fated to extend its borders from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts and beyond. The term was first used in an editorial that was published in the July-August… read analysis of Manifest Destiny

The Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867

An agreement which promised the Comanche, Kiowa, Kiowa-Apache, and other Southwestern indigenous tribes “hunting rights to much of the Great American Desert, or the area south of the Arkansas River.” The agreement was signed by… read analysis of The Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867
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An underground house dug out of the earth on the prairie. The floor was dirt and the walls were plank boards “with no insulation on the inside and tarpaper on the outside.” Cow chips burned… read analysis of Dugout

Sod House

A house on the prairie which was an alternative to a dugout. It was made of prairie grass, which was “stacked like ice blocks of an igloo.” The houses tended to leak. read analysis of Sod House

The Red River War of 1874-1875

A conflict between several Native American tribes and the U.S. Army. The war began with an uprising of several Southwestern tribes, particularly the Comanche, in response to Texans’ violation of the Medicine Lodge Treaty ofread analysis of The Red River War of 1874-1875

The Battle of Palo Duro Canyon

The decisive battle of the Red River War of 1874-1875, in which the U.S. Army permanently removed the Comanche tribe from the Texas Panhandle. The battle, which occurred on September 28, 1874, resulted in… read analysis of The Battle of Palo Duro Canyon


A disease caused by the build up of prairie dust, which is high in silica content (a compound in mineral quartz and sand), in the lungs. The coarse dust tears at “the honeycombed web of… read analysis of Silicosis

Dust Pneumonia

A common ailment in the 1930s, with symptoms including coughing fits and body aches, usually chest pains, “and shortness of breath.” The disease was common among children, infants, and the elderly. Some of those who… read analysis of Dust Pneumonia

The Concussion Theory

The superstitious notion that rainstorms tended to follow war battles. The theory was unsuccessfully tested by the cereal magnate C.W. Post in West Texas, where he sent dynamite into the clouds to spark rain—but none… read analysis of The Concussion Theory

CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps)

A public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942. It was designed to keep young men working during the Great Depression and to perform public works projects. The corps worked to build dams… read analysis of CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps)


A migrant from the Great Plains who went to California, often arriving on foot, to look for work. Many farmers left the Great Plains during the Great Depression. “Okie,” a pejorative which was intended to… read analysis of Okie

The Last Man Club

A group of four men in Dalhart, Texas, including George “Doc” Dawson, “Uncle” Dick Coon, and John McCarty, who were long-time residents and regarded as pillars of the community. The club was based on an… read analysis of The Last Man Club


A portmanteau, or a combination of the phrase “snow duster.” A snow duster referred to a storm or shower which combined snow and dust. read analysis of Snuster