I was taught from an early age — as in about my freshman year in high school — to write about things you know, things you have experienced, things you have a certainty as to their truthfulness and veracity.
OK, for a writer, that sometimes is hard. I can’t know to an absolute certainty that what I sometimes write about is the unvarnished truth if I haven’t experienced what I’m writing about.
July 13, 1936 — 113 degrees in Enid.
That date was the first of seven straight days here in Enid, America, when the thermometer set a record for the high temperature on that date in history.
You see, that was the last year of the Dust Bowl, that great life-altering tribulation that struck much of the Great Plains and was exacerbated by being in the middle of the greatest economic calamity the United States and the modern world has ever seen.
My only connection with it is what I’ve read from people who were there — who experienced the Dust Bowl — and what was related to me on many, many occasions from my dad.
July 16, 1936 — 109 degrees in Enid.
You see, he was 10 years old in 1936. He experienced those bleak and sometimes hopeless feelings during the great black blizzards — all that dust and heat, which became everyday life.
He grew up in Southwest Oklahoma, where the Dust Bowl hit Oklahomans hard.
He related stories to me over the years, his witnessing of life-scarring events — anecdotes from that time in Depression-era America.
And the record temperatures recorded here in Enid were eclipsed in that area of Oklahoma.
He remembered that day thousands of cattle had been collected, taken to a large pit that had been dug and they had been shot and buried, because there was no way to feed them, and they were starving and diseased. And, he remembered April 14, 1935 — Black Sunday.
July 17, 1936 — 112 degrees in Enid.
His most poignant memory of those days was when he lived in Gotebo, in his fourth-grade year of 1936.
He had gone to a friends house after school, and the friend had offered to share food with him.
The boy brought out two sandwiches from his run-down house in the tiny town, and offered one to my dad.
It was two pieces of bread with melted suet spread on them, taken from a large stove pot the family used to render cattle fat.
That was what the boy’s family lived on in those awful times.
July 18, 1936 — 115 degrees in Enid
My dad had many more experiences he related from the Dust Bowl, and all had a similar, bleak theme to them. It sometimes was hard to see those things in my mind, because I had not experienced them.
But, he had, and he wanted them passed down to me, in case I had to face what he faced in 1936 — and basically all the years of the Great Depression.
My grandparents used to drive and visit relatives a lot back in the 1930s. That was what they did. It was their entertainment, because no one had any money back then. It was their distraction from their Dust Bowl reality.
July 19, 1936 — 112 degrees in Enid
When I was growing up, my dad had us visiting relatives — particularly in Southwest Oklahoma — every chance he could get.
While I didn’t understand it at the time, I do today. I miss those days when we visited in Gotebo and Granite, and my dad would take us to places and houses he had grown up in like Erick, Foss and Elk City.
July 20, 1936 — 112 degrees in Enid
When we got together with relatives, it was always a happy, joyous, laugh-filled event. Those were the good memories my dad had of those heat-searing times in Oklahoma.
I had the same feeling when we all got together. Those times are my best memories of childhood, and I swore to myself I would never forget the stories my dad told, the life-altering times he experienced.
July 23, 1936 — 110 degrees in Enid
This week in July we are experiencing a heat wave not unlike what people across Western Oklahoma experienced in the dark year of 1936.
It was 111 degrees on Tuesday last.
It won’t scar me like it did my dad and everyone who went through it.
All I can do is write — and remember — what I know to be true.
Christy is news editor at the Enid News & Eagle. Visit his column blog at www.tinyurl.com/Column-Blog