examining the history of the American Dream, especially in the rural areas of
the new nation, the people either had too much of something or not quite enough
to get along and survive. Here are a few samples of this statement:|
of the Mississippi River, an early settler found more trees than he wanted and
spent a lot of time clearing the land to produce food and forage crops. Settlers
could hardly find enough trees west of the river for building homes or even to
provide firewood. They had to build their abodes out of adobe, rock, grass sod
or burrow into a hillside.
In some areas the grass and brush was so thick
the land had to be burned in order to plow. In other areas there was so little
grass the land would not support the settler’s livestock. The government never
seemed to get the homestead acreage right for settler survival. In some areas
160 acres was more than a large family could farm and properly tend and in other
areas 640 acres was not enough to provide a sustainable living standard.
lands, like the prairies with its “open range” designation, had too few legal
rules and regulations, became over-grazed and brought on the livestock disasters
that plagued the industry down through history. After the government stepped in,
especially during the homesteading years, the rules and regulations became so
difficult it required a lawyer to fill out the required documents.
the 1920s, commodity prices were so high most farmers and ranchers plowed the
lands or overproduced livestock numbers to the point the markets crashed.
Too much production brought on The Dust Bowl and numerous governmental regulations
that have existed until modern times still affecting the prices of many commodities.
During the time from the 1800s to the late 1920s, equine horsepower was
the major source of power with which to farm. To really farm 160 acres of land
right, it required two or three men, with several teams of horses or mules and
proper equipment. Half of the acreage farmed had to provide forage and grain for
the work stock needed to pull the equipment.
When tractors appeared, one
hard-working man could properly farm the same 160 acres in much less time than
when using equine horsepower, and the formerly forage acreage could be turned
into more profitable crops. This equation became the main problem during the Great
The Crash of ‘29 affected few rural people as most owned no
stock. The banks closing did not affect many farm workers as they did not have
bank accounts. The break in commodity prices did not affect them much, as they
owned few livestock or growing crops.
But, when the boss bought a tractor
with proper equipment, it took away the employee’s job, home and source of money.
Whereas equine farming required three people to farm 160 acres, the same farm
only required one man driving a tractor. Almost overnight, two out of three rural-based
families lost their jobs and home, as it usually belonged to the farm owner.
economy was poor, the drought was severe, but all was brought on by having too
much for too long. Then the times changed and most all had too little to survive.
© Delbert Trew
- August 29,
Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164,
by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by email at trewblue@centra media.net.
For books see delberttrew.com. His column appears weekly.