Saturday, December 17, 2011

taking the mother road -- the first story

NOTE: This post was originally published on August 29, 2011.

"Taking the Mother Road" - limited edition giclée print

Please allow me to share a story for each of the six paintings from my Dust Bowl Glimpses series, my first in some years now. They are dedicated to the impoverished people who, despite hardship, extended a hand to help strangers because it was the humane thing to do.

The first, "Taking the Mother Road", sets the stage for the remaining five:
They didn’t want to leave but they had no choice. Drought, dying livestock, foreclosures, and acres of topsoil blown into their homes and lungs drove them away from the only life they knew. California offered promises of steady work and fertile ground—a fresh start. They were taking the mother road.

"Taking the Mother Road" - 8"x8" acrylic on cradled wood panel

The colors are intentionally-muted. The landscape appropriately desolate. "Taking the Mother Road" attempts to capture the constant migration of families.

One by one, impoverished families of the Dust Bowl (1930s America) crawled onto Route 66, the mother road, in search of a better living out West. While some families stayed put, most could no longer endure the merciless conditions created by what would become a record-breaking 10-year drought, uncultivable land, and devastating winds that blew an estimated 100 million acres of topsoil across the region into homes, schools, and townships. One storm no dust bowler ever forgot was “Black Sunday”, a debilitating dust storm on April 14, 1935, that rolled across Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas.

My research on this project involved:
  • Reading John Steinbeck's Pulitzer-prize winning novel The Grapes of Wrath
  • Listening to my mom share stories of our ancestors who homesteaded on the prairies of Kansas and Colorado during the 1930s
  • Viewing PBS' American Experience (love their whole body of work) Surviving the Dust Bowl
  • Viewing the government-sponsored documentary released in 1936 The Plow that Broke the Plains
  • Visiting a variety of online sites
For those of you interested in learning more on the subject, I highly recommend watching the aforementioned videos. Interestingly, I chose not to watch the 20th Century Fox movie version of The Grapes of Wrath for fear of being influenced by the images. Not sure why I thought that, but I did. The Oscar-winning movie is now in my Netflix queue.

Click here to read the stories on the remaining five DUST BOWL GLIMPSES paintings. Galleries have also been added to my Web site:


  1. Two books that you might enjoy that go way back before the Dust Bowl and which give a clear picture of the struggles of our grands and great-grandparents are: Rolvaag's "Giants in the Earth" and David Laskin's "The Children's Blizzard".

    These are not happy, touchy-feely, books. Instead they are based on real-life experiences, the difficulties of those who migrated westward in the 1800s. Excellent view into their lives.

  2. Thank you for stopping by and reading my post. And thank you for recommending those books. Congratulations on being a survivor. Cheers and happy holidays.