The Great Depression

Tan Clouds

Everything in and around it is covered in dust and dirt. You could say it almost looked like a blizzard hit, only what was left covering the ground wasn’t sparkling white, but a dull light-brown. The house was once painted white, but everything was now tanned from the sand and dust that covered it all. The front wasn’t quite so bad, the sand was only around a few inches high around the edges of the small house, but at the other end, it reached up at least a foot against the house, the height descending as it circled the wooden frame. There were a few spots under the porch-roof that weren’t hit as hard by the storms and were still mostly white. The small spots became less and less visible as we drove farther away from the house where my brother, and only sibling, died.

It has been nearly a month since the day we left home, now. My parents decided that we should head East and try to find jobs in the cities rather than West to find more farm work. They said that they’d had enough of that. We really had no money, when we left our house, we left nearly everything in it. We couldn’t sell it because the dust had made it uninhabitable. After the bank closed, all of our money we had saved in there was gone. All we could do was leave and try to find new work somewhere else. The dust made sure of that. 

It took a long time to drive to the cities, although it was much faster than it would’ve been with a horse and buggy like they used before. The cities were a sad place. Huge, towering buildings lined the streets as far as you could see, but it was looking below these huge skyscrapers. Clumped together in alleys or little empty gaps near the buildings were small villages made of tents and boxes. “Hoovervilles”, my parents had called them. That would be where we would be living if we couldn’t find money or jobs. I was hoping things wouldn’t have to come to that, but I knew hoping wouldn’t change the future.

We really hadn’t had any money to start with, and there were a lot of people living in the cities. I couldn’t blame my parents for how things turned out. It wasn’t long until the money was almost all gone. Jobs were scarce, and homes weren’t cheap. We wound up living in a tent in the alley, or at least, my parents did. They told me that they were going to send me to live with my Aunt Grace and Uncle Jim, along with their kids, Matthew and Claire, Btu I didn’t want to go. Even if we had no money, even if I could starve because we couldn’t afford food, I didn’t want to leave the only family I had left! I barely even knew who my aunt and uncle were! But they insisted. They had bought a train ticket to Michigan with most of the money they had left. They would stay and try to find jobs still.

It was Aunt Grace who came to get me from the train station. Apparently my uncle was busy at work then. I didn’t blame him, work now was hard to come by.

“Suzy!” she called over to me as I stepped off the train. She wasn’t a very big woman, but she wasn’t small either. You could say she was a little “chubby”, I suppose. She was wearing what looked like a light blue blouse and tan skirt and her auburn hair was pulled up into a messy bun. She was waving one of her arms in the air as she tried to capture my attention. I walked over to her, hauling a large dark brown suitcase filled with all of my personal things.

“Hello Aunt Grace--” I began before she trapped me in a huge bear hug, catching me completely by surprise.

“Oh Suzy!” she cried. “I haven’t seen you in years! Not since… Oh, your brother…” she trailed off, the huge grin that she had been wearing completely vanished.  I stared at the ground, concrete littered with dust and pebbles. I didn’t want to have to think about that again.

“I-I’m sorry, Sweetie. He was too young for that to have happened…” she sighed, shaking her head in grief. 

“No… no, its fine. He-he’s in a better place now.” I murmured in response.

My brother was killed in one of the dust storms a little less than a year ago. He had been playing outside when out of nowhere, this huge black cloud covered the sky. I was inside when it came. I saw the clouds closing in through the window and told my parents. They told me to find my brother while they covered up all of the windows to block out the dust. I thought my brother was inside with me at first. I looked around calling his name, but he wasn’t inside. That was when I heard a scream. It seemed like it came from outside. I burst through the door, trying to find my brother before the storm got to us. I saw him there, standing in the field a little ways away. He was looking directly up at the huge, black cloud that loomed right in front of him. 

“Run!” I had yelled, and he turned around and started to run back to the house, but he was rapidly engulfed by the cloud of dust. I leaped off the porch and ran onto the field after him. The cloud was rapidly approaching the house, I didn’t have much time left before I wouldn’t be able to see anything. I had to find him while I could still see the house. 

I dove into the black cloud. If I was right and he was still running, I should have run into him quickly after I entered the cloud, but I couldn’t see or hear him. The dust hitting me stung my body and got into my eyes and throat. It was quickly cutting off my vision and my breathing. I just kept running and searching, choking out my brother’s name, trying to get some sort of response. Then I tripped over something big, falling onto the dusty ground. I pushed myself up, trying to cough out the dust that entered my lungs, and looked back to see what I fell over. It was my brother. He was lying on the ground choking and sobbing. He must have been so scared that when he tripped, he couldn’t get back up. I crawled over and tried to pull both of us up so that we could make it back to the house. He was slow to get back on his feet, so I just picked him up and carried him back.

Both of us were in a lot of pain for the next few days from all of the dust we had inhaled, but his case was worse. He could just barely breathe, he swallowed so much that he was drowning in his own body. After three days, his breathing just stopped. My brother was dead. I was eleven years old when that happened, he was four. The storms only got worse after that, and eventually, we just had to leave home altogether.

The last time I had seen my aunt and uncle was when he as born. Then before that, when I turned five years old. I barely had any idea who they were, but apparently they had more money and a better house than my own parents did. 

I followed Aunt Grace to her car, a slightly dusty Model-T, and climbed in with my bag. The happy air she had around her was now gone. Hopefully everything wouldn’t be so  gloomy once we got to her house and I got to meet my cousins. Hopefully everything wouldn’t be so bad anymore. Maybe things would start getting a bit better. My parents could get jobs, some money for food, a home, and then maybe I could go back to live with them. For now, I just have to wait.