The Grahams’ of Cochran County – Chapter 33

Sand Storms were a big part of my growing up in Cochran County.  One morning when we were living behind the café in Morton, Texas I was about to depart for school but Mother told me not to venture out.  There was a report on the radio that Amarillo, Texas was having a bad dust storm.  It was supposed to arrive in Lubbock in about an hour.  This storm was a big one and traveling at a good rate of speed.

Any students that had arrived at school were being sent back home.  I went outside the café toward the Court House and looked north.  Sure enough it was getting dark in the north big time.  We all knew what to do.  We took old rags and started closing the windows in the quarters behind the café.  We stuffed these rags around the windows to keep as much dust out as possible.  We filled the wash tubs with water so we would have enough water to clean up.  Mother Bess was posting a note on the front of the café stating that we would be closed until tomorrow.  All the businesses around were doing the same.

When the dust started flying we were all secured in the rooms in this hotel type residence and were getting ready for the big blow.  Mother had to run back into the café and get something she had forgot.  As she ran back into our quarters she said she could hardly see the Court House just across the street from us.  The electricity went off and we got some candles to light and a kerosene lamp to light.  At about 3 o’clock in the evening it became pitch black.  It sounded like the roof was blowing off.  We had to wet some bandanas and put them across our nose and mouth to keep the dust out.  Our job of preparing the windows was only partially successful.

We all went to bed a little earlier than usual.  During the night I had to get up and use the slop jar and it sounded quiet outside like the wind had died down.  It was nice to get up the next morning and notice that the sun had come out.  Everything was dusty but at least the air was not so dusty anymore.  Mother was already over at the café preparing the breakfast for customers.  When I finally got dressed and went over for breakfast the men were sitting around drinking coffee and eating breakfast and talking about this storm as being the worst they had seen since the early 30’s.  The ranchers were criticizing the farmers for breaking up too much land to plant and not leaving the native grasses alone.

At school we were given damp rags to help clean the desk tops off and dust the books.  The janitors were busy with their brooms and shovels to remove the dirt drifts in the halls and some classrooms.  During recess the boys especially were rolling down the sand drifts and playing “king of the hill”.  I was sad when the teacher told us that we would likely have to take an extra day at the end of school to make up for the Sand Storm Day.

After I graduated high school and joined the Army I was at Fort Ord, California three months before I thought to myself “when am I going to see a dirt storm here”?  I asked one of my buddies in training with me when the sand storms might start.  He looked at me and said we don’t have sand storms here in central California.  I guess I thought that sand storms were just a part of life for everyone on the planet.