Ken Burns’ lastest documentary: ‘The Dust Bowl’

The award-winning film maker Ken Burns has put together a four-hour documentary called “The Dust Bowl.” It will run on the Valley PBS station Nov. 18 and 19 beginning at 8 p.m. each night. I have a personal interest in the subject because my family has Dust Bowl roots, fleeing Oklahoma in the early 1930s to seek the California Dream.

My grandparents, and their children, including my father, headed for California looking for work and a better life. It was a difficult trip west, but they finally reached the California border looking for work. They picked crops in the San Joaquin Valley — mostly cotton — and lived in farm labor camps along the way. They faced hostility and prejudice at a time when “Okie” was a term said with great anger by those looking at these new immigrants to California. The family rule was to ignore the insults and prove you belonged by making your own way.

My family eventually ended up in Fresno and later found work in the construction industry. My grandparents and my father instilled an ethic of hard work — you make your own opportunities by working hard. They didn’t have much, but it was deeply appreciated. That philosophy has guided me from the days I picked grapes and cantaloupes to make summer spending money, through dozens of fast-food jobs in high school, and finally finding a career in the newspaper business. I have been blessed with opportunities, and I’m thankful for a family that lead the way from Shawnee, Oklahoma.

I’m looking forward to Ken Burns’ history of the Dust Bowl. It’s good to be reminded of where you came from. Sometimes we forget what it took for our parents and grandparents to allow us to have so much today. Here’s ValleyPBS’ description of the program:

“The Storm is coming! This Sunday night tune in to watch The Dust Bowl. It is the newest film from award winning director, Ken Burns. The Dust Bowl is a two-part, four-hour documentary chronicling the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history in which the actions of thousands of individual farmers, encouraged by their government and influenced by global markets, resulted in a collective tragedy that nearly swept away the breadbasket of the nation.

“The decade-long natural catastrophe of Biblical proportions encompassed 100 million acres in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. During this time, the skies withheld their rains, plagues of grasshoppers descended on parched fields, bewildered families huddled in dark rooms while angry winds shook their homes and pillars of dust choked out the midday sun.

“In this documentary hear the compelling stories of 26 survivors sharing what will likely be the last recorded testimony of a generation that lived through the Dust Bowl. You’ll also see rare film footage and previously unpublished photographs.

“Experience the magnitude of this ecological disaster. Tune in to watch The Dust Bowl, Sunday and Monday starting at 8 p.m. only on ValleyPBS.”


Brian Murray says:

“Sometimes we forget what it took for our parents and grandparents to allow us to have so much today”…your support for four more years of Obama and CA taxing the productive into oblivion pisses all over that assertion…but if your words, not reality, make you feel warm and fuzzy all over then continue to live in that world…seems you have plenty of company.

Kim Tanksley says:

You are right to have pride Jim. Every lineage in this state is the result of immigration. My family came from Missouri in the late 1800s. I think the reasons those from Oaklahoma were so ill regarded was due to the timing of the dust bowl more than anything. The depression caused job resources to be scarce and the dust bowl just added to the competition in California. It was a hard time. My grandparents were living with seven kids under age 12 in the back of a pickup truck at one point in the 1930s; working in the fields and any other job of any kind there was to be had. They eventually settled along the Kings River and spent 10 years clearing the land with their sons (one my father) to build their own farm. They were hampered by floods and drought but they perservered. I asked my father if they ever went hungry. He evaded the question but told me with pride that his parents provided something to eat every day. Sometimes it was mushrooms that the kids were sent to collect, that grew on the Valley grasslands. Those of his siblings that survived the times grew up to have educations and children that all went to college. There is a sense of family pride in how we all started and where we are now. It is because of the disintegration of the family in todays society more than anything that has led to the spread of entitlment programs. The support structures are gone. The sense of pride in personal accomplishment is gone. Many who have lived a comparitive life of ease have forgotten so quickly those that made it possible. We are removed from the simple aspects of where our food comes from so we indiscriminately destroy prime farm land for housing developments, over graze the hills and pollute our water. Our ancestors would take a hickory switch to us all if they knew the bad choices this state and it’s inhabitants have made. Thanks for the reminder. It is important that we learn from history. Not only the mistakes of the past but also the successes. Cheers to you and your family Jim and those cut of the same cloth.

Brian & June Murray says:

Kim…my family is cut from hard worn Midwest cloth also…only we still hold on to self reliance and accountability as motivation unlike Jimbo and his paper who have promoted govt. dependance, and control the information flow to further their agenda…that’s why I say he pisses all over his grand statement with his actions and words in relation to his editorial position at the Bee. I understand it’s their paper and they can do what they want but c’mon man, quit blowing smoke up our ass that they believe in an America and a work ethic they do not.

Kim Tanksley says:

I’m not going to play your game Brian. Mr. Boren has worked hard all his life I say that proves what he says. I wasn’t even referring to your post at all Brian but I will add that there are more than one road to the same goal. Some are better than others but I dont blame anyone who is trying. You can have your viewpoint and state your opinion without the constant stabbing. Perhaps your words would be listened to then and you could make a difference.

Brian Murray says:

Kim…sorry to bother your tender sensibilities…if you want to play footsies with Jimbo…be my guest.

Kim Tanksley says:

I judge the individual and try to treat all with respect; even though I dont succeed all the time. Try it. It’s liberating.

Brian Murray says:

Kim…I’ll take no offense and dismiss your condescension as ignorance based on only what you’ve read that I have written…just like you don’t know that Jimbo has worked hard all his life…I have my beliefs but it’s not for me to judge anyone, not even myself…Try that for a little liberation sister.

Brian Murray says:

Does PBS fund Ken Burns…and who gets the money made from this…has Ken Burns found a lifetime income pipeline financed by taxpayers and what about fact checking or do we not care when it’s coming from a left wing opportunist ?

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