NEHS Featured Speaker
Friday, March 22, 7:45 p.m.
American author and journalist Timothy Egan worked for 18 years as the Pacific Northwest correspondent and a national enterprise reporter for the New York Times. The first of Egan's six books,The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest, won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award in 1991. Egan's history of the Dust Bowl,The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and the Washington State Book Award in history/ biography. In a gripping narrative, The Worst Hard Time relates the stories of those who lived through the environmental tragedy of the Dust Bowl. Tim Egan's book called the attention of Ken Burns to the story of the Dust Bowl. The result is that Egan is working with Ken Burns on the two part documentary, The Dust Bowl, which airs on PBS November 18 and 19, 2012.
Egan's recent book, The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America (2009), tells the story of the Great Fire of 1910. The Big Burn earned Egan a second Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award and a second Washington State Book Award in history/biography. Timothy Egan's most recent book is Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis, which describes the dramatic story of the man who made the most famous photographs in Native American history. Egan's appearance at the 2013 Sigma Tau Delta Convention is sponsored by NEHS.
Excerpt from The Worst Hard Time
A Sunday in mid-April 1935 dawned quiet, windless, and bright. In the afternoon, the sky went purple—as if it were sick—and the temperature plunged. People looked northwest and saw a ragged-topped formation on the move, covering the horizon. The air crackled with electricity. Snap. Snap. Snap. Birds screeched and dashed for cover. As the black wall approached, car radios clicked off, overwhelmed by the static. Ignitions shorted out. Waves of sand, like ocean water rising over a ship's prow, swept over roads. Cars went into ditches. A train derailed.
Jeanne Clark had been outside playing when her mother called to her, panic in her voice. "It was like I was caught in a whirlpool," she says. "All of a sudden it got completely dark. I couldn't see a thing."
That was Black Sunday, April 14, 1935, day of the worst duster of them all. The storm carried twice as much dirt as was dug out of the earth to create the Panama Canal. The canal took seven years to dig; the storm lasted a single afternoon. More than 300,000 tons of Great Plains topsoil was airborne that day. For weeks afterward, eight-year-old Jeanne Clark could not stop coughing. She was taken to the hospital, where dozens of other children, as well as many elderly patients, were spitting up fine particles. The doctor diagnosed Jeanne with dust pneumonia, the brown plague, and said she might not live for long. Jeanne's mother had trouble believing the doctor's words. She had come here for the air, and now her little girl was dying of it.