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Paul Bonnifield continues his life long interest in history. He earned his Ph.D. in twentieth century American history from Oklahoma State University. He has written several books and numerous articles as well as newspaper columns about regional history. He is now retired and enjoying more writing time. He and his wife Ellen co-authored a fortnightly history column for “The Local” newspaper until its recent demise. Paul currently is working on a book about the Ute Indians in northwestern Colorado. He also will present a paper about wild horses and wild horse runners in northwestern Colorado at the Western History Association Conference in October 2011.
Here’s an excerpt from Paul’s book, The Dust Bowl: Men, Dirt, and Depression, published by University of New Mexico Press in 1979:
The gale came blowing from the south on March 3, 1935. Dirt leaped into the air and pounded everything it struck. At his home on the north edge of Guymon, Oklahoma, Vernon L. Hopson was standing by a window watching the storm when a fifty-five-gallon oil drum came jetting past the window. The next day he looked out the same window and was amazed to see a 120-foot steel oil derrick, which had been in operation before the storm, lying flat against the earth. The same storm broke off fifty telephone poles between Guymon and Goodwell, Oklahoma.
That storm was followed by another and yet another. In late March the major wire services were arousing national concern for the health of children who were sick and dying from dust pneumonia in Baca County, Colorado. Hundreds of residents in the Kansas counties of Stanton, Morton, Stevens, and Grant, dreadfully ill with measles and dust pneumonia, were being treated at emergency hospitals. As the storms continued to rage, many residents fled the stricken land until the blow was over.
The sun rose in a pleasant blue sky on April 14. The wind was soft and gentle, from the southwest, and the air was clean and healthy, a pleasant respite from the dirt storms of the previous months. It was a day for a drive in the country, a day for a fishing trip to Two Buttes Lake, a day for a rabbit drive northwest of Hooker, Oklahoma. It was also a day for a roller. About four o’clock in the afternoon, the rabbit hunters were ready to corral thousands of jackrabbits when a black rolling cloud engulfed the men and beasts. Immediately everything turned black. All the hunters could do was sit down, pray, cough, pray, choke, and pray, while horses and rabbits squealed, ran, and floundered among them.