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Material 10

The Grapes of Wrath

"And then the dispossessed were drawn West - from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Car-loads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand. They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless - restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do - to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut - anything, any burden to bear, for food. The kids are hungry. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land.

... Highway 66 is the main migrant road. 66 - the long concrete path across the country, waving gently up and down on the map, from Mississippi to Bakersfield - over the red lands and the grey lands, twisting up into the mountains, crossing the Divide and down into the bright and terrible desert, and across the desert to the mountains again, and into the rich California valleys.

66 is the path of a people in flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land, from the thunder of tractors and shrinking ownership, from the desert's slow northward invasion, from the twisting winds that howl up out of Texas, from the floods that bring no richness to the land and steal what little richness is there. From all of these the people are in flight and they come into 66. 66 is the mother road, the road of flight. ...The people in flight streamed out on 66, sometimes in a single car, sometimes a little caravan. All day they rolled slowly along the road, and at night they stopped near water."

Questions

  • Find Highway 66 in your atlas and describe the way the poor farmers and farm workers took from the Panhandle to California.
  • What might people have felt like when they left their homes for California?
  • What would you take with you if you had to give up your home? Make a list.

Jokes and sayings from the dust bowl period on the Great Plains

"To clean pans, all that is necessary is to hold them up to a keyhole, and they will be sandblasted."

"Why pay taxes in Texas when the farm has moved to Kansas?"

"Since the soil is being rotated by the wind, it will not be necessary to rotate the crops."

"You can tell when a duster is coming by the sneezing of the rattlesnakes."

Task

Try to explain these jokes in your own words.