52. Talking: Storm, April 14 (Visibility 4 miles, Duration 2 hours)

“Sure is dry.”
Even that was
Dangerous to say. Whining
Never got the cotton in.

They sat by the Red and White.
Now that time had come to seed,
They couldn’t.
They tried to keep quiet,
But could not.
Tom thought, Riah said
They weren’t alone, them
With their busted mill. “Think
Wind just blows our place?”
She’d wised off:
Too much of that, these days.

“Reckon Roosevelt knows–
About this?” one man asked.
“They show him pictures.”
“Yep. You bet he does.”
They nodded. “Well, here’s
What I’ll say–
He’s the first one gave a damn
About the farmer.”
They sat beneath the sun,
Beneath deep shadows
Cast down by their hats.
“I tell you what. Small farmer,
Can’t make no kind of living
Any more. When the sun
Burns all the cotton, when
There’s nought to eat or wear, for
Folks in this country, then…”
The voice trailed off.
“Big growers will survive.
Get sky-high prices.”

“Roosevelt’s a farmer,” Thomas said.
Bud said, “Picks apples
Off his mama’s trees.”
Tom shifted his weight.
He scratched his leg. “Hear of
That Rex Tugwell?” he asked,
“Paper says he
Runs off at the mouth.”
“‘Big talker, little doer.'”
“Aw,” Mr. Ashby said,
Tapping his pipe,
“Wants us shipped to some co-op,
And we pay the Government
For land. Shoot! I moved here
To be my own man.
Co-op’s no free country.
How come Roosevelt
To keep him on?”
“Guy sounds like
A Bolshevik,” said Bud.

Too dry for planting.
Couldn’t pay for seed.
Unless those checks came in–
The Government “renting” their land–
They’d have nothing.
Empty mouths and bills.
Tom had told James
To bring home his books,
School supplies, that they could
Pack. It was stealing–some,
School-owned–here
Tom’s mind fogged–but
The boy deserved his books.
And I’m not the only one,
Thought Tom, who’s going down.
He had seen them,
In and out the bank,
The others, through the weeks.
You’d catch them
When you drove in for supplies–
You’d avoid their eyes.
You’d cross the street–
Common courtesy, became.
I’m not blind, thought Tom.
What happened next–these
Farm programs, these
Checks–rested
On a rich man
They had never met–
Picture in the paper,
Voice on radio–
Whatever it was,
The Government.

“I’ll be blessed
If it don’t fix to blow.”
They followed Olin’s finger.
North horizon.
Brown-orange plume
Began to rise.

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