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Rollers, Rabbits, and Red Snow – The Oklahoma Dust Bowl

Black blizzard approaching a farm

A black roller tears into Goodwell, Oklahoma, Texas County home of Panhandle A&M College, now Panhandle State University, 1937.


Since around the time of Oklahoma statehood, farmers had cleared off, plowed, and harvested thirty-three million acres of buffalo country in the American Great Plains. This comprised an area the size of the state of Pennsylvania. These sturdy pioneers had not, however, adapted their agricultural practices to the verities of their untamed new prairie lands.

They had cleared fields of wind and flood breaks. In turn, they lost the thin layer of topsoil that allowed native grasses to root, retain the region’s precious moisture, and keep the earth from blowing away. They had unknowingly set in motion a ticking time bomb of unimaginable proportions.

Already facing falling prices and mounting supplies of unsold products, farmers grew even more nervous when precipitation declined in 1930 from t