Out of the Dust…temporarily

Out of the Dust is such a powerful, quick read. The language that the author chose really pulled at the heart strings. Living through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl is absolutely amazing. The strength, stamina, and determination of those people is astonishing and emotional as we as readers gain the perspective of a young girl, Billie Jo.

From the day Billie Jo was born she was at a disadvantage. Her father always wanted a boy but instead he got a tall, bony girl. However, Billie Jo was built and acted just like her father. He was a man of very few words and would work harder than anyone, most days. But when it was quitting time, even at his most tired moment, he could still smile when Ma played the piano at night.

Billie Jo loved the piano as well, but never thought she was as good as her ma. She would practice daily and actually got asked by Arley to play in a show with Mad Dog (who must have had mad skills too.)

However, one day Papa left kerosene by the stove and it spilt and Ma was running outside with the firey flame and Billie Jo knew it would start the house on fire so she took the kerosene kettle and began to run outside with it, but  right at that moment her Ma was coming back inside and she splashed boiling hot kerosene on her pregnant mother and herself on accident. Her mother was badly burned and it burned the flesh right off Billie Jo’s piano playing hands.

Ma never recovered and her and her unborn brother passed away. It was a tragic night because Pa was fed up and spent the rest of their spare money at the bar while Billie Jo tried to help her dying mother. (At this point my heart was breaking for a young girl to have to go through so much by herself). Billie Jo knew it was an accident and it could have all been avoided if her father wouldn’t have left the kerosene so hot on the stove without telling anyone.

Now it’s just Billie Jo and her father and the dust is overtaking their home. They cannot sleep at night because the dust fills their lungs, their bed, and their glasses of milk at dinner time. And the thoughts of her deceased mother haunt her.

Billie Jo finds strength to cope with her mother and brother’s death by playing the piano, even with her aching hands. She practices and actually wins 3rd place in a contest in town. The days after that though she suffers as her hands were not even able to grasp her dollar she won as a prize. Even though every day was a struggle for Billie Jo, she fought on and triumphed through determination and hard work.

The description of dust and how it infected everyone was unimaginable. To live through that kind of torture from mother nature is amazing; however your quality of life is lowered immensely.  

After reading this book I was filled with emotion. I lost both of my grandmothers at the beginning of this year and I had one regret after they passed away. I never asked them what it was like to live through this time. Both of them were born in 1925 and they lived in the panhandle of Nebraska and experienced the dust bowl. I wish I could ask them because that history of their personal experiences died with them. I always meant to ask about life then and living with the horrendous dust for years during the dirty 30’s but I never just asked.  So now I am on the quest to talk to my grandmas’ brothers and sisters about their experiences. It is fascinating to me that that history is still alive and I think it needs to be expressed by those who had to endure it. 


4 thoughts on “Out of the Dust…temporarily

  1. I was so sorry to read about the loss of your grandmothers. I also regret that I didn’t talk to my grandparents about their childhoods and experiences either. That’s wonderful that you’re trying to talk to your grandmas’ siblings about their experiences so you can learn more what it was like.

  2. I also am newly interested in the dust bowl. When looking up information I realized that I have seen many pictures from that time and some are used on my local stations for commercials. I watched the PBS special and think that those people were some strong people. Some didn’t have much choice and others made what they had work. I think it would be great to be able to listen to and journal stories from family members who lived through that.

  3. Absolutely talk to them now! I did have the opportunity to speak with my grandma about her life during that time. It is amazing what they endured. I had a whole new respect and understanding of my grandma and her strength.

  4. Your post made me very thankful that my grandparents are still alive and that I am very close to them. So I love hearing about back when they were young and what all they had to say. The Dust Bowl really interests me!

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