television series, "The Dust Bowl," concluded Monday night. The film by
Ken Burns featured interviews with several Panhandle residents who lived
through a decade's worth of drought and wind storms.
Breeden, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce in Guymon, a town
in the center of the Oklahoma Panhandle, said she has been fielding
more calls from tourists and others seeking information about the area
since the documentary began airing. A native of the region, she
acknowledged that even she learned a few things from the series.
wind is who we are," said Breeden, whose grandparents lived through the
Dust Bowl. "We've had a lot of interest. And I'm sure it's going to
The No Man's Land Museum in nearby Goodwell has
experienced jumps in visitors when other movies and documentaries have
focused on the period, noted museum director Sue Weissinger.
Oklahoma Panhandle was once called No Man's Land after various treaties
and federal declarations left no one in charge, though the term seemed
appropriate due to the harsh climate, with 20 inches or less of rainfall
in the typical year. After the area was opened up to settlement,
farmers tilled up native grasses and planted wheat, disrupting the
ecosystem to the point that the land suffered.
The Dust Bowl was blamed on poor farming
practices and a severe drought that let the Plains' high winds scrape
up dirt and carry it, at times, thousands of miles away. Conservation
efforts, tiered farming and better weather helped the area recover.
drought has gripped part of the area for the past year, though not on
the same scale as the 1930s. And unlike the Dust Bowl years, new farming technologies and conservation methods are helping to prevent the same kind of erosion during the ongoing drought.
"Our land isn't blowing away," Breeden said.
the border at the XIT Museum in Dalhart, a town in the far northwest
corner of the Texas Panhandle, about 4,000 people visit each year and
many are interested in the Dust Bowl, said museum director Nick Olson.
The museum showcases artifacts from the XIT Ranch, a cattle ranch
spanning more than 3 million acres in the Texas Panhandle that operated
from 1885 to 1912.
"They look at our photographs of the black
clouds coming across or the sand dunes and they can't believe that could
happen," Olson said, adding that he also hopes the documentary brings
people to the area.
The No Man's Land Museum, operated by a
historical society established in 1934, has photographs from the period
and a collection of oral histories. It has few newspaper articles from
the decade, Weissinger said, because local papers sought to concentrate
on happier news - not calamity and the Depression.
"The articles are from the 60s," Weissinger said. "People didn't talk about the Dust Bowl as it was going on."
heart of the Dust Bowl included adjacent portions of Colorado, Kansas
and New Mexico, but at times storms raged throughout the Midwest.
Smithsonian and the National Endowment for the Humanities held a summit
in the fall for students in nine states, including California, to where
many from the Plains migrated on the Mother Road at the height of the