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November 17, 2012

'The Dust Bowl' is latest documentary for Ken Burns


Calvin Crabill, 88, was one of them.

“On the plains, often there’s a sound, and it’s the wind in some way,” he says. “You sense the wind because the wind blows so much there. But what was so awesome is that, suddenly, you had silence on the plains, silence, almost deafening silence. And then when — they call them ‘rollers.’ When that roller hit, all hell broke loose. It was deafening. But before it hit — and it came up slowly ... There’s silence, complete silence. And when it hit, it was deafening, and you couldn’t see or hear.”

Timothy Egan, author of the award-winning book “The Worst Hard Time” about the Dust Bowl, says when he was first started researching his book, he had a whole other subject in mind.

He wanted to write about the decline of the small town. But as he progressed he realized he’d chosen the wrong theme. “I remember sitting — this is my genesis — sitting with about six women — they were all women — all afternoon listening to them tell these stories. And I went back to my motel, and I wept. And I said to myself — first of all, it was all new to me, which is what any journalist, any storyteller looks for. ‘Oh, my God, no one’s told this story. It’s Steinbeck.’”

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