Dust Bowl Days in Oklahoma

| 8/26/2011 11:14:15 AM

HorseThis story is from Doris Zicafoose, submitted as part of our Wisdom From Our Elders collection of self-sufficient tales from yesteryear. 

As I look across my 88 years, I realize it has been quite an adventurous life, growing up in the Dust Bowl days in Oklahoma with a father who thought trading horses was a profitable profession. With tractors replacing horses for farm work and the Great Depression at its onset, horse trading proved to be a poor choice of occupation. What little money Dad made was never enough to keep body and soul together.

We lived on the Old Home Place, a 60-acre worn-out farm. It couldn’t grow enough crops to support a family but it was a wonderful place for children to grow up. Dad always had a cow, and we always had a garden, except in the driest years of the 1930s. Those were the hardest. I remember when mom and dad planted the garden and there was no rain, so they carried buckets of water to try to get the seeds to sprout. It must have worked because I don’t remember ever going hungry, but that spring we ate a lot of poke greens; they were a nutritious weed that grew along the fence rows and tasted somewhat like spinach.

It was challenge to live without electricity or indoor running water. Children, or even adults today, cannot imagine what a blessing an indoor bathroom can be and how wonderful it is not to have to go to the outhouse on a cold winter night.

At one time, before 1929, my dad had a dairy. One day, an ornery young cousin brought the bull in the yard and staked him near the door of the house. It was impossible for mom and us children to get out the door to get to the outhouse! Mother raised cain and, after a few hours, the bull was finally moved and we were able to go to the outhouse!

Taking a bath in the round washtub in the kitchen was the Saturday night routine. After pulling up buckets of water from the well, hauling them into the kitchen, and heating it on the old wood or coal cookstove, we all took our baths. The first person to bathe had a heavenly experience (except for lack of privacy); the last one, not so much. All water for washing clothes, dishes or bathing had to be heated on that stove and, oh, how my mother hated that stove. Because it was so hard to regulate the heat, baking was a challenge as was the pressure canner. Dad must have had good luck selling a horse when I was about 12 years old because he bought a kerosene stove. What a great improvement over the old range!

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