The Great Depression

Story of a Oklahoma Migrants

The sparse grass waved in the wind underneath the strong sun.  A small sod house stood in the plains, eroded from its original size by the dust storms.  Next to it was Model T car, covered with a fine silt.  Inside the house was a family of five eating a meal.  Like the grass, the meal was scanty.  

“We have to move.  California is the only option.  We can’t stay here and starve.” the father said.

The two younger children received this news with enthusiasm.  They were tired of the dust and dryness.  To them California held promise and adventure.

The oldest, Ferro, didn’t want to leave his home despite the hard times.  He felt that he should be loyal to his homeland and didn’t want to abandon it.  He appreciated his home state of Oklahoma, and loved the work that he and his family put into the land.  

“What about all the work we put into our home?  What about good times we have had in the past?” all eyes were on Ferro as he spoke.  

“It’s just that, I...I don’t want to leave.” Ferro finished lamely.

“Do you think that I want to leave?” said his mother, “I cooked meals here, washed the dirt out of the clothes, swept the dust out of the house, tended to you all, do you think that I want to leave?  This land, this dirt, this earth, it is a part of me as it is of you.  I don’t want to leave either, but I believe that my family has no choice.”

“We will come back one day.” was the father’s promise.

They sold the rest of their unnecessary items the following day.  They had been getting rid of their farm equipment and remaining animals for a couple weeks by now.  They packed up and set off on the road to California. 

The road felt never-ending to the hopefuls that followed it.  California, where they could get jobs!  California, where they could support and feed their families!  It seemed like a dreamland to the people that traveled there.  

The car crawled along the highway.  It was laden with all the items it could support.  Inside the car was Ferro’s family.  They had crossed the border into California at last.  It was a balmy day and a slight humidity hung in the air.  

They stopped at a small lake and got out to eat some of the little remaining food.  

“Imagine what kind of farms they have here!  I’m looking forward to the fruit.  I’ve been yearning for something sweet and juicy.” the mother said.

The children were eager to try the fares of this state.  Even Ferro’s homesickness had subsided as he moved.  His family had stayed in Oklahoma till late August and by the time they got to California it was mid October.  

“Stupid okie!  Stay away!  Did you see the sign?  No okies allowed.  Can you even read?” the angry store keeper shouted.  

A small crowd had gather to observe the commotion.  They laughed at Ferro as the shop manager yelled.  

For a month now Ferro had been putting up with the discrimination against his family.  They were segregated as if they were a dumber species than the snooty Californians.  Ferro had reacted with this with shock at first to this treatment, but over time resentment began to build in him.  

“Why do you act as if I am not human?” he shouted at the crowd in general.  “My family and I, we are people, too.  All I ever hear is “okie” from you.” 

Angry mutterings began in the crowd.  Ferro realized what he did and ran off back to the car.  

“I found a place to work,” his father said, “a cotton plant.  The pay is better than what we have been getting.  Did you get what we needed?”  

Ferro shook his head.  

“These people are giving us trouble again.  At least at the farms we are treated as a useful resource,” his mother said bitterly.  

They went to the cotton farm and started to work that day.  They earned more money than usual from picking cotton.  

The drawback was that they earned most of their money on the store credit.  The items in the store were more expensive than in the town store, but, being paid in tore credit, what other choice did they have?

Still, the cotton farm had good pay.  They stayed there for little over a month, until the field was picked clean.               

There was a crowd around the radio.  The new president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was announcing his intentions to help the the country get back on its feet.   The president had passed the Agricultural Administration Act.  The migrants who had gathered around to hear the news cheered.  Many of them, including Ferro’s family, were farmers.  They were glad they could go home and work on their own farms again instead of being chained to California and still get a good pay.  The dust storms had subsided and they could get back to there homes.  

“The Civilian Conservation Corps are looking for young men to join them.  If you are looking for a job to help prevent future dust storms, join the Civilian Conservation Corps!” was the final message.  

Many were all ready imagining their homes again, but this time with flourishing crops.   

Ferro knew that his family was going home.