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Dust Bowl Diary


On this date in 1932, Ann Marie Low spent the evening picking chokecherries. She watched the ducks along the river and the changing colors of the hills and fields, calling it her country. By the end of the decade though, the farm where she grew up would no longer feel like home.

As the dust bowl swept much of the nation, Ann wrote of the changing countryside in her diary. The rains stopped coming. Well water levels dropped. The river dried up. Temperatures soared. Crops withered in the fields. With no market for the starving cattle, many farmers shot the animals rather than let them perish in the heat.

Over-farming and over-grazing meant the plants couldn't hold the dry soil. The strong winds whipped the loose dirt everywhere. Ann would put away clean dishes, only to wash them again because the cabinets were so dirty. One day, she couldn't use the car for fear the dirt would clog the motor. Riding her horse instead, Ann followed the fence-line home in the blinding dust.

She watched farmers struggle as prices dropped and crops burned. Banks sold off mortgaged properties and many moved. One couple, the McKenzies, moved to Jamestown after losing their land. However, "They soon died, she brokenhearted over the loss of her nice home and he over the farm and his beloved horses..." Ann's uncle held out for better prices, but was left in debt when he eventually sold out, losing 10 dollars for every acre.

The government bought out many farmers, forcing them off their land. Soon government agents started swarming over Ann's homeland. Her dad, though, held out. Never believing in debt, he had managed through the poor crops, medical bills and college tuition for his three kids. During one confrontation with a government worker, he exclaimed, "Young man ...It is too late for you tell me I can't make a living here...." However, because most of his neighbors had sold their land, the government could condemn his. In 1938, after the government paid him for his land, he moved to a new home.

During those last years on the farm, Ann's family watched as the government set up a camp for the CCC or Civilian Conservation Corps. In creating a wildlife refuge, the CCC camp was poorly run and destroyed the land she knew. Ann wanted nothing more than to get away. She taught school in Medora and after resisting many marriage proposals, she finally gave in, and would move with her husband to Oklahoma and later the East Coast.

Her recollections, now a book entitled "Dust Bowl Diary," end with a passage from Rudyard Kipling: "Lord God of Hosts be with us yet, Lest we forget - lest we forget."

Dakota Datebook written by Alyssa Boge


"Dust Bowl Diary" by Ann Marie Low - 1984.