Dust, Drought, and Depression #1
In the 1930s, the dust bowl, drought, and economic conditions drove many independent farmers, tenant farmers, and sharecroppers from the land.
Others left because of advances in agriculture they couldn’t afford.
Dorothea Lange, with her photo of James Abner Turpen, a Texan farmer on relief, recorded the impact of farm mechanization.
Goodliet, Hardeman County, Texas. James Abner Turpen, a Texan farmer on relief – ‘Tractored out’ in late 1937. Now living in town, and on the verge of relief. Wife and two children. “Well, I know I’ve got to make a move but I don’t know where to. I can stay off relief until the first of the year. After that I don’t know. I’ve eat up two cows and a pair of horses this past year. Neither drink nor gamble, so I must have eat’n ’em up. I’ve got left two horses and two cows and some farm tools. Owe a grocery bill. If had gradutated land tax on big farms, that would put the little man back again. One man had six renters last year. Kept one. Of the five, one went to Oklahoma, one got a farm south of town and three got no place. They’re on WPA (Works Progress Administration). Another man put fifteen families off this year. Another had twenty-eight renters and now has two. In the Progressive Farmer it said that relief had spoiled the renters so they had to get tractors. But them men that’s doing the talking for the community is the big landowners. They got money to go to Washington. That’s what keeps us from writing. A letter I would write would sound silly up there.”