New Mexico Homestead: Seeing the Family Farm Through the Dust Bowl Days

A woman remembers the hardships of her childhood on a New Mexico homestead, and chronicles her family's journey to find land in the Ozarks

| Good Old Days

When New Mexico opened for homesteading, my father rode his bicycle 400 miles from his father's homestead in Oklahoma to New Mexico. He filed his claim on 160 acres of government land near the little settlement of Roy, New Mexico.

When my father and mother were married in 1913, their pos¬sessions consisted of a snug one-room claim shack on that 160 acres and the bicycle with father's photography equipment strapped on the back.

Everything went well for my parents during those early years.

Their acreage doubled, the house grew to three large rooms with porches, a small photograph shop was opened in town and the farming equipment increased along with the horses and cattle. The children came along to help with the chores. I was the third child, and I can remember gathering eggs and helping to pull young tumbleweeds out of the garden.

Then came what my father called "the prosperous years." During that time my father's crops expanded until he was raising 100 acres of pinto beans and 100 acres of wheat each for several years.

It was like the Bible reference to seven years of plenty followed by seven years of drought and famine. By 1928 the well-known "dust bowl days" had started. In New Mexico there were terrible sand-storms. During the early summer, my father was able to buy a wrecked Greyhound Bus. The motor was good, but the body was badly damaged. That bus became my father's obsession; he worked to make it into a comfortable motor home to take his family out of New Mexico to the "promised land," the Ozarks. Every spare minute of daylight was spent working on that bus. Every night was spent under the coal oil lamp, poring over United Farms and Strout's Catalog of Ozark farms. He marked all of the farms listed that he wanted to see. He told us that there were trees with cool shade in the Ozarks, brooks with cool running water and rivers that had nice big fish just waiting to be caught and eaten. There were wild berries to pick and rich ground to raise good gardens. Best of all there would be no blowing sand.

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