No Man’s Land Quotes in The Worst Hard Time
When the native sod of the Great Plains was in place, it did not matter if people looked twice at a piece of ground. Wind blew twenty, thirty, forty miles an hour, as always. Droughts came and went. Prairie fires, many of them started deliberately by Indians or cowboys trying to scare nesters off, took a great gulp of grass in a few days. Hailstorms pounded the land. Blue northers froze it so hard it was like broken glass to walk on. Through all of the seasonal tempests, man was inconsequential. As long as the weave of grass was stitched to the land, the prairie would flourish […] The grass could look brown and dead, but beneath the surface, the roots held the soil in place; it was alive and dormant […] When a farmer tore out the sod and walked away […] It could not revert to grass, because the roots were gone. It was empty, dead, and transient.
At the end of the year, she said goodbye to No Man’s Land. Hazel put on her white gloves and brushed back tears but said tomorrow would bring good things to the young family, so it was not worth a long cry. She planned to leave with her dignity intact, like a lady. In 1914, at the age of ten, she had first seen the grassland, rising on her toes on the driver’s seat of her daddy’s covered wagon to get a look at this country. She would hold to the good memories [….] There would be a place, always, in Hazel’s memory of the blackest days No Man’s Land. But it would shrink, because Hazel would force it down to size to allow her live.
Elsewhere in 1938, the recovery and the energy of the New Deal had run out of steam. More than four million people lost their jobs in the wake of government cutbacks, and the stock market fell sharply again. Some of the gloom that enveloped the country at midterm in President Hoover’s reign was back. In the Dust Bowl, the fuzz of a forced forest and the re-tilling of tousled dirt did not stop the wind or bring more rain, but it was a plan in motion—something—and that was enough to inspire people to keep the faith. As Will Rogers said, “If Roosevelt burned down the Capital we would cheer and say, ‘Well, we at least got a fire started anyhow.’” The High Plains had been culled of thousands of inhabitants […] But as the dirty decade neared its end, the big exodus was winding down. The only way that folks who stayed behind would leave now, they said, was horizontal, in a pine box.
People were drilling deep and tapping into the main vein of that ancient, underground reservoir of the Ogallala Aquifer, as big as the grassland itself, they said. These new boomers, a handful of men in town, wanted no part of Bennett’s soil-conservation districts. They wanted money to pump up a river of water from the Ogallala, pass it through a tangle of pipes, and spit it out over the sandpapered land. They would grow wheat and corn and sorghum, and they would make a pile, using all the water they wanted, you just wait and see. They talked as if it were the dawn of the wheat boom, twenty years earlier. Melt thought they had not learned a thing from the last decade. The High Plains belonged to Indians and grass, but few people in Dalhart shared his feelings.
The High Plains never fully recovered from the Dust Bowl […] After more than sixty-five years, some of the land is still sterile and drifting. But in the heart of the old Dust Bowl now are three national grasslands run by the Forest Service. The land is green in the spring and burns in the summer, as it did in the past, and antelope come through and graze, wandering among replanted buffalo grass and the old footings of farmsteads long abandoned. Some things are missing or fast disappearing: the prairie chicken, a bird that kept many a sodbuster alive in the dark days, is in decline […] The biggest of the restored areas is Comanche National Grassland, named for the Lords of the Plains […] The Indians never returned, despite New Deal attempts to buy rangeland for natives […] The Comanche live on a small reservation near Lawton, Oklahoma. They still consider the old bison hunting grounds between the Arkansas River and Rio Grande […] to be theirs by treaty.