‘Dem Cotton Pickin’ Okies Not only stock markets were affected by the Depression. The farming society may have been the ones who suffered the most. Not only their section in the bank had been destroyed, but also the dust had eaten up their homes, work place, and places of entertainment! When dust storms hit no one knew what the 1,000 feet high, black dust clouds were. Some thought life was ending, and others thought it was judgment day. This phenomenon was caused by the drought, which lead to the decline of farmers.
The soil turned bad, and caused the Dust Bowl. The residents of the Midwest had to deal with this very dilemma and it was not easy at all. For the most part, families stayed in their houses and tied handkerchiefs over their noses. If they had to leave they would add goggles to protect their eyes. The houses were sealed tight with cloth wedged in the cracks of the doors and windows. Women would knead bread dough inside drawers opened just enough for their hands to avoid the dust getting into the bread.
Also to avoid dust contaminated food the women learned to stir pots quickly and to keep water sealed in mason jars. Farmers, whose normal feed crop failed, would harvest thistles and soap weed to feed their stock. The decline of farm prices fell about fifty three percent in 1929 due to the Great Depression. Because of this the farmers’ income fell which meant they didn’t have the money to pay for equipment or seeds, which also meant the land sat there unused. This is the way the Depression affected farmers. The land that was left was destroyed, and turned into dust. Although many of the people adapted to this hardship, some just could not handle it.
These people migrated West, most to California. “Some 150,000 to 200,000 acres of our cultivated land and a large portion of our grass land is literally blowing away for the reason that for the past two years no vegetation has grown. Fields are bare and pastures are without grass to hold the soil. Our roads are blocked. Trucks from consolidated schools have been unable to take the children to their schools.” – F.
E. Herring to Elmer Thomas, on conditions in Roger Mills County, Oklahoma, April 7, 1937. “In the midst of drought, there lies a suffering humanity, subdued in tragedy” -Book of Jacob – Prelude to the End 1:18 Arriving in California, disappointment awaits them. The fruit is plentiful. However, there is demand for workers only during picking season of a particular fruit. The workers are forced to “migrate”, looking for jobs.
Receiving an actual job was an enduring feat. Many ran out of gasoline looking for work, and couldn’t afford any more. Besides these hardships, these people were discriminated against, and taken advantage of. Upon their arrival, they were called “Okies”. Originally, this term meant that someone was from Oklahoma.
As time went by, it was used as an insult. These Okies were honest workers, and labored hard. The wages they received were seldom enough to provide wholesome meals for a large family. As more workers arrived, each offered to work for a lower price. And as if not enough, the locals developed fear of the migrant workers.
The local farmers and police, were afraid that the Okies would quickly steal any land and food that wasn’t guarded. This misconception drove them to incredible lengths to guard everything. Leaders that spoke out and organized unions were quickly arrested and placed in prison, often without trial. Sometimes it is difficult to believe that this was how America was at one time. In the mid – 1930’s, relief finally came to needy Okies.
This was a direct result of new government acts and aid programs. “Since 1935 the Farm Security Administration has been making small loans – averaging about $350 – to needy farm families, to enable them to get a new start on the land. Ordinarily such loans are just large enough to finance the purchase of the seed, livestock, and equipment necessary to carry on farming operations. They are repayable over a period of from one to five years at 5 per cent interest.” – Will Alexander, FSA administrator, statement before the Temporary National Economic Committee, p. 5, May 24, 1939 The Farm Security Administration (FSA) and its precursor the Resettlement Administration (RA) were New Deal programs designed to move poor farmers onto good agricultural lands.
The RA did such by relocating them and the FSA by loaning them money for farm purchases or improvements. The Okies were making a steady comeback in the State of California. History Essays.