Most people traveling across the North American Great Plains speed past these relics on their way to somewhere else. From Kansas City to Denver, Denver to Dallas, or Dallas to Saskatoon, the Great Plains are seen by most drivers and passengers as a vast, unending swath of boredom. “There’s nothing out there,” is the common criticism.
After years of criss-crossing the Great Plains myself, I have a much different perspective. On the surface, I see the distinct beauty of the wide open spaces. With little else nearby to distract a gaze across the prairie, I often feel a strong spiritual connection to the land and our God who created it.
I would work in Amarillo for two weeks at a time, then drive home to Parker (a Denver suburb) for a long weekend. That drive covered about 300 miles through four states spanning the southwestern High Plains. All of that area, and the entire Great Plains once suffered through the worst man-made ecological disaster in history.
From 1934 to 1937, drought and dust storms wiped out farms and grasslands stretching from Texas to Montana. But the area that suffered the most during the Dust Bowl was the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles and extreme southeastern Colorado. At least two-thirds of my commuting route traversed this area.
I drove through the small towns of Boise City (pronounced “boys”), Stratford, Springfield, Dalhart, Clayton, and Dumas. But mostly, I drove by farmland that was once dotted with 160-acre homestead farms before and during the Dust Bowl.
One third of the population left the area during the Dust Bowl. Very few structures remain. Most were blown away after they were abandoned. Only a few old farm structures remain.