The Script of The Plow That Broke the Plains

 

I: PROLOGUE

This is a record of land ...
of soil, rather than people -
a story of the Great Plains:
the 400,000 acres of
wind-swept grass lands that spread up
from the Texas Panhandle to Canada . . .
A high, treeless continent,
without rivers, without streams . . .
A country of high winds, and sun . . .
and of little rain ...

 

II: GRASS

The grass lands ...
a treeless wind-swept continent of grass
stretching from the broad Texas Panhandle
up to the mountain reaches of Montana
and to the Canadian border.
A country of high winds and sun ...

 

III: CATTLE

First came the cattle...
an unfenced range a thousand miles long ...
an uncharted ocean of grass,
the southern range for winter grazing
and the mountain plateaus for summer.
It was a cattleman's Paradise.
Up from the Rio Grande ...
in from the rolling prairies ...
down clear from the eastern highways
the cattle rolled into the old buffalo range.
For a decade the world discovered the grasslands
and poured cattle into the plains.
The railroads brought markets to the edge of
the plains . . .
land syndicates sprang up overnight
and the cattle rolled into the West.

 

IV: HOMESTEADER

But the railroad brought the world into the plains . . .
new populations, new needs crowded
the last frontier.
Once again the plowman followed the herds
and the pioneer came to the plains.
Make way for the plowman!
High winds and sun . . .
High winds and sun...
a country without rivers and with little rain.
Settler, plow at your peril!

 

V: WARNING

Many were disappointed.
The rains failed . . .
and the sun baked the light soil.
Many left . . . they fought the loneliness
and the hard years ...
But the rains failed them.

 

VI: WAR

Many were disappointed, but the great day
was coming . . . the day of new causes -
new profits - new hopes.
"Wheat will win the war!"
"Plant wheat . . ."
"Plant the cattle ranges ... "
Plant your vacant lots ... plant wheat!"
"Wheat for the boys over there!"
"Wheat for the Allies!"
"Wheat for the British!"
"Wheat for the Belgians!"
"Wheat for the French!"
"Wheat at any price
"Wheat will win the war!"

 

VII: BLUES

Then we reaped the golden harvest. . .
then we really plowed the plains. . .
we turned under millions of new acres for war.
We had the man-power . . .
we invented new machinery . . .
the world was our market.
By 1933 the old grass lands had become the new
wheat lands . . . a hundred million acres ...
two hundred million acres ...
More wheat!

 

VIII: DROUGHT

A country without rivers...without streams
with little rain...
Once again the rains held off and the
sun baked the earth.
This time no grass held moisture against the
winds and sun ... this time millions of acres
of plowed land lay open to the sun.

 

IX: DEVASTATION

Baked out-blown out-and broke!
Year in, year out, uncomplaining they fought
the worst drought in history
their stock choked to death on the barren land...
their homes were nightmares of swirling dust
night and day.
Many were ahead of it - but many stayed
until stock, machinery, homes, credit, food,
and even hope were gone.
On to the West!
Once again they headed into the setting sun ...
Once again they headed West out of
the Great Plains and hit the highways
for the Pacific Coast, the last border.
Blown out - baked out - and broke ...
nothing to stay for ...nothing to hope for...
homeless, penniless and bewildered they joined
the great army of the highways.
No place to go...and no place to stop.
Nothing to eat...nothing to do...
their homes on four wheels...their work
desperate gamble for a day's labor in the fields
along the highways...
The price of a sack of beans or a tank of gas ...
All they ask is a chance to start over ...
And a chance for their children to eat,
to have medical care, to have homes again.
50,000 a month!
The sun and winds wrote the most tragic chapter
in American agriculture.