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Fiction from the Dust Bowl


During the thirties, intense heat, cold and drought contended with other factors to turn the Midwest into a giant dust bowl. With the erosion of topsoil and the destruction of farmland, many lost their home, and their will to continue. Yet some still chose to stay and push forward, despite the difficulties.

These were the times that led to the publishing of books like John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Of Mice and Men;" it led to the careers of people like photographer Dorothea Lange, who photographed migrant workers, documenting the effects of the storms.

Local news reports also helped preserve the memory of these hard times. An article published in the Bowman County Pioneer on this date in 1937 didn't note the weather, but not all that caused trouble was dust. A plague of grasshoppers certainly wasn't much better. Especially giant grasshoppers!

The photo accompanying this article showed a young man who appeared to be holding a grasshopper by its long hind legs, its body stretching to half the lad's height. In his other hand, the young man clutched a shotgun. "Grasshopper shot near Dickinson, North Dakota," is hand-written on the photo.

The article stated: "Many [grasshoppers] have been killed; but it is impossible to get them without a heavy caliber rifle ... A few have been captured alive; but only after great risk to life and limb. It is impossible to completely tame a wild grasshopper."

Continuing the fiction, the article reported that one young man was interested in bronco riding, so he decided to train some of the larger grasshoppers to use as bucking horses in a rodeo at the 1938 Slope County fair.

Placed in a newspaper in the midst of a hard, economically challenged climate, in an all but ruined farmland, this Paul Bunyon-style story would have raised some eyebrows back East.

For those who may have remained worried, the editor included this note of reassurance: "...The picture is not all that it seems. Had the grasshoppers grown as large in North Dakota as this one, the editor would no longer be here to write this stuff."

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker


Bowman County Pioneer, Thursday, September 9, 1937