Bane of the Little Osage


This is my response to the Friday Fictioneers prompt for December 19. The challenge is to write a 100-word story inspired by the photo prompt. Play along by writing your own, reading others and/or commenting on the flashes we fictioneers create. The photo prompt this week comes from Douglas McIlroy.  My piece this week weighs in at exactly 100 words.

Copyright Douglas McIlroy

Copyright Douglas McIlroy

Bane of the Little Osage

Alice’s shoulders slumped as she looked out the window of the farmhouse to see another black blizzard on the horizon. She remembered how the elders of her tribe had warned of such times. Men like her handsome, blond husband had laughed. Prairie grass couldn’t be harvested for money. They declared war on the land, tried to domesticate it, planted acres of wheat. Then the drought came.

As the storm arrived, Alice held a wet handkerchief over her mouth. Even indoors she was not safe. The grit entered through every crevice. Alice closed her eyes and dreamed of escaping to California.

The facts behind this week’s story:

During the 1930s, an America already distressed by the Great Depression was plunged further into despair by a human-caused disaster. Over-farming the Great Plains created conditions for the Dust Bowl. I don’t know what my fourth great grandfather, the last Little Osage chief, John Horn, actually said about the habits of white farmers, but I am sure he would have warned against disregarding the earth. My story this week is a fictionalized account of a dust storm on the family farm where his great granddaughter, my great grandmother, lived with her pacifist husband, the son of a Ukrainian immigrant. In my story, names have been changed.

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35 thoughts on “Bane of the Little Osage

  1. Dear Marie Gail

    I love where this prompt took you and where your title takes me. 😉

    Great bit of history and a lot of story between the lines. I felt the grit coming through the chinks in the walls.

    Excellent story, my dear.

    shalom,

    Rochelle

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks so much, Rochelle. This is the first time in several months that I was able to workshop a story with Conja before posting. I always like the results when that happens.

      Peace,
      Marie Gail

  2. I was always fascinated by this time in our nations history but haven’t read about it in years. Your intriguing story renews my interest.

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks, Dawn. I seem to have a love-hate relationship with this era of history myself. It intrigues me to learn how people survived it, but at times the horrors are too much for me to bear. This week I felt like looking at it and celebrating the brave souls who did survive both the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. By Christmas Day, I predict that I’ll be ready to stick my head back in the sand for a while.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  3. Good story and a moral tale about how we’ve messed up mother earth. For some it’s too late.

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks, Patrick. It struck me in researching this how we often seem to think that pollution problems and other environmental issues are new. The Dust Bowl was almost entirely created by irresponsible humans during World War I, nearly 100 years ago. However, it was also reversed by humans. Work done under FDR’s “New Deal” included new topsoil being brought to the land as well as planting and replanting of trees and grasses that protect and nourish the soil. There is always hope.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  4. wildbilbo says:

    Great story on Arrogance and the failure to properly land manage… but I’ll admit I cannot figure how you got from the Photo to the Story (I enjoy making these links :))

    Was the theme ‘war’ – the battle of the bugs translated to the war on land?

    Cheers
    KT

    • storydivamg says:

      Oh dear! You opened the floodgates, KT, and now I have to explain myself. 🙂

      Actually, I am such a literal thinker that this is the first time in my recreational activity with Friday Fictioneers that I did consider an explanation concerning how I got to this story from the prompt. When my first few commenters didn’t question me, I thought I was home free, but now . . .

      On seeing the prompt, my gut reaction was “Yuck, bugs!” Having grown up near my great grandparents’ farm, I tend to associate icky bugs with farming and the country in general. Naturally, being a family homestead in the state of Kansas, there is a long history of farming crisis associated with the Dalke farm. So, my next thought was “Dust Bowl.” From there, the research led me to this story.

      Thanks for your interest! And thanks also for reading, commenting and following.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  5. Sandra says:

    Lovely story, and some new information there for me. Like KT I didn’t see the link between the story and the picture, and like KT I enjoy dwelling on that aspect each week. Well done though.

    • storydivamg says:

      Dear Sandra,
      I knew I should have included an explanation when I posted this week. 🙂 Since not everyone gets back around to read all the responses, I’ll include part of my reply to KT here:

      On seeing the prompt, my gut reaction was “Yuck, bugs!” Having grown up near my great grandparents’ farm, I tend to associate icky bugs with farming and the country in general. Naturally, being a family homestead in the state of Kansas, there is a long history of farming crisis associated with the Dalke farm. So, my next thought was “Dust Bowl.” From there, the research led me to this story.

      Thanks for reading and engaging, Sandra. It’s always a pleasure.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  6. Great story. Have you read ‘The Worst Hard Time’ by Timothy Egan? It’s all about this period in American history and really interesting.
    Claire

    • storydivamg says:

      Claire,
      Although I have heard of the book, I haven’t had the time to read it. It is of a genre that should have been up for several literary awards given in the Kansas City area to people who write realism–either in creative non-fiction or realistic fiction–but the book was first published a year after I left the job where I was helping to make those decisions. Somehow reading it got shoved into the “do this later” pile. Maybe it’s time to change that.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  7. dmmacilroy says:

    Dear Marie,

    There was a spider in her handkerchief, wasn’t there?

    Sorry, couldn’t help myself. In reality I’m not sure it matters how you got from the photo to the story. What really matters is that it made it from your history onto the page. I enjoyed it and thank you for writing it.

    Aloha,

    Doug

    • storydivamg says:

      Doug,
      You guessed it! LOL Actually, on that farm it seemed there was always some sort of a creepy crawly showing up unwelcome, which is the real reason for my leap to the Dust Bowl this week. I figured that if there were 6 and 8-legged vermin in good supply in the 1980s there must have been the same or worse in the 1930s.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  8. emmylgant says:

    Great story with a nice flow. We need to revisit the lessons of the dust bowl, because I think we are forgetting or have already forgot.

    • storydivamg says:

      So very true, Emmy. I was talking about this with my wife this morning. Currently, some people in the Midwest are attempting to create legislation that will reverse the measures that FDR set in place to reverse the effects of over-farming following the 1935-1937 drought. These measures have resolved many of the issues caused by over-farming, but if ignored, we will open ourselves up for another disaster.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  9. Marie Gail, the Dust Bowl is something I don’t remember learning much about in school, but have read the book and watched much of the documentary (in the new movie, Interstellar, they use real clips from interviews with Dust Bowl survivors). It’s stunning history! Your story really captures the horror of those times. The addition of your family history made this story all the more compelling. What amazing material to draw from! Excellent.

  10. This also takes me into those first chapters of “Grapes of wraith” that to me is the great story of what happened to the people… a sad example of what humans can do if not understanding how to live with nature… the personal connection made it even better..

    • storydivamg says:

      Ah . . . The Grapes of Wrath . . . I read portions of that in school but have yet to complete the tome. Maybe I should put that on my “to read” list.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

      MG

  11. My mother lived through this in Bristol, CO. She has so many fantastic stories – I’ve recorded them all. Great take on the dryness of those times.

    • storydivamg says:

      I’m so glad you recorded her memories, Alicia. Without such recordings, we would lose so much. You are wise to value the stories of your elders.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

      • Indeed! There are some pretty cool stories about how gracious my grandparents were doing those hard times. Many neighboring farms lasted a long time due to Clara and William Humbargar.

  12. rgayer55 says:

    I watched the PBS documentary on the dust bowl with great interest. What a horrible time. White man has a habit of raping the earth with no cares about tomorrow. Well written, Marie Gail. It spoke to me.

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks, Russell. We actually learned by touring the Kahokia Mounds that some indigenous peoples also over-farmed, but they killed themselves off centuries before the Dust Bowl. Humans never seem to learn from others, do we?

      Thanks so much for your kind comments.

      All my best,
      MG

  13. Margaret says:

    I like your small details showing Alice’s feelings and her distress about what’s happening. Very engaging. And I like how this snapshot of one family’s experience reveals the larger disaster.

  14. liz young says:

    Poor Alice – the dust storms must have been a hundred times worse than the salimas we get here in Tenerife. Well written.

    • storydivamg says:

      Dear Liz,
      What are salimas? I have never heard of these and couldn’t find anything with an online search. If they are anything like the black blizzards of 1930s Kansas, I definitely don’t want to experience one.

      Glad the story struck a chord with you. I do believe we humans often have more in common that we have differences.

      Thanks so much for reading.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  15. You didn’t even have to tell me this was regarding the Dust Bowl. Great visuals MG! Until next week…

  16. Marie Gail, I remember reading about such a family that moved to California in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. It was a tragic time. Well written piece based on history. —Suzanne

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks, Suzanne! I had forgotten that Grapes of Wrath took place on the journey from the Dust Bowl to California. I know my grandmothers would have appreciated the opportunity to escape, but these days, Kansas is much greener than the overpopulated, over-farmed shores of Southern California. Time has a way of changing things, doesn’t it?

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  17. I was looking forward to seeing what you came up with and this didn’t disappoint. A fascinating story.

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks, Etienne! Carving out the time to read stories from our little group of Fictioneers is always rewarded–in many ways. I’m glad my little story was one of those rewards for you.

      Hope you are having a beautiful holiday season.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

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