Wilma Hinz remembers daytime being as black as night when dark billowing clouds rolled into Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl.


Wilma Hinz remembers daytime being as black as night when dark billowing clouds rolled into Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl.

“They just kinda roll, and it’s kinda scary to watch them,” the 85-year-old North Newton resident said, sitting in her comfortable home at Kidron Bethel Village. “You couldn’t see (during the day) because of the dark clouds. ... It was really bad there in the ’30s.”

The recent dust storms near Phoenix reminded Hinz of the Dust Bowl, when she experienced dust storms as a young girl living in Oklahoma during the Great Depression. Hinz said the dust storm clouds were darker in her day probably because of the color of the soil.

Hinz remembers the dust storms as being scary.

“You went in the house, and you stayed there,” Hinz said about when the storms would hit.

One time, she was frightened because she didn’t think her father would make it home after he had gone to Clinton, Okla., because she thought he couldn’t see his way home.

“But he did (make it home) eventually,” she said.

Similar conditions exist in parts of America now that caused the Dust Bowl.

“Economic depression coupled with extended drought, unusually high temperatures, poor agricultural practices and the resulting wind erosion all contributed to making the Dust Bowl,” according to howstuffworks.com.

Many parts of the United States are experiencing extremely high temperatures and drought, as well as the economic downturn, and dust storms have been happening.

However, Hinz thinks Newton is a great place to not experience dust storms.

“This is so much nicer here,” she said. “You’ve got a lot of trees, and the humidity makes a difference. There’s so many more trees out here.”

The trees help keep the wind from not blowing the dirt around, she said.

Hinz also experienced dust storms when she and her husband, Robert, moved three miles east of Liberal in 1950 to a farm with a four-room house. She said her second daughter was born in 1953, and her brother brought their mother to the farm to help out after the baby was born. She and the baby stayed in the bedroom on the south part of the house. The dust would come through the bedroom window, and they could almost see the dust blowing through the cracks of the window sill, Hinz said.

“And so my mother would hang a wet towel over that window and then would sweep the floor about every 15 minutes to keep the dust from blowing into the next room,” Hinz said.

The house was quite old and had many cracks and leaks. The dust storms in Liberal were just dusty, Hinz said; they weren’t like the rolling clouds in Oklahoma.

“Mom and Dad came to their little farm east of Liberal in 1950 and basically re-homesteaded land that had blown away in the ’30s and had not really been ‘conserved,’” daughter Raylene Hinz-Penner said in an e-mail. “This was exactly at the time that the soil conservation movement really got going, and Mom and Dad worked very hard to restore that land and run a productive dairy business for nearly three decades. Apparently, in 1953-55, conditions were nearly as bad around the Dust Bowl area as during the Dirty Thirties, but by then, farming techniques had changed, hedgerows had been planted and conservation techniques were beginning to work, and another ’50s Dust Bowl was avoided.”

Hinz-Penner is writing a book about this, tentatively called “East of Liberal.”

Hinz also recalled the strength of the winds in Liberal. She said the wind would blow all day as strong as it does in the Newton area during a thunderstorm.

At that time, they had a dairy, and Robert would drive a truck full of milk cans into town. The truck had a metal topper.

“I remembered when he came home (one time), it was so bad it sucked the topper off and blew it ... off into our neighbor’s field,” Hinz said.

Hinz said it was very dry in Oklahoma and Liberal.

“We were always praying for rain — always,” she said. “... There just weren’t trees anywhere ... It’s a whole different culture (in Liberal).”

The land was quite sandy in Liberal, and her husband fought the land for a great deal of time.

“If any land would blow, he’d try to stop it with implements,” Hinz said. “He couldn’t stand seeing that land sifting around.”

The blowing dirt would cover up their feed plants.

“So we fought it all the time we were there,” Hinz said. “By the time he died, he had it in very good shape.”