Free Dust Bowl Teaching Resources

August 2018 NOTE: This resource will be updated extensively later this fall as I am currently preparing a resource “The Dust Bowl: The View from Ground Zero.”  Stay tuned.

Growing up in Springfield Colorado in the 1930’s, my mother was a child of the Dust Bowl.   I asked her once if she remembered Black Sunday any more than some of the other dust storms  and she said,

not really they were all about the same.

Dustbowl in my hometown, Springfield Colorado, May 21 1937, Source: Box in my Mom’s Basement

I have heard stories my entire life about the Dust Bowl and the Dirty Thirties so I am so excited about resources such as the online complements to The Dust Bowl produced by Ken Burns.  This resource is an interactive story about the dust bowl. The Interactive Dust Bowl includes video clips and scenarios for students to work through.

After each video clip students have to make a decision to either keep farming or move onto something else.  Interesting that all my relatives decided to stay.  I hope others can learn about this era and the hardy folks that called the dust bowl home.

NOTE:  This post originally appeared on  This post is a teaching or technology resource rather than a pure story.  However,  it adds value to the archive my Baca County friends and neighbors are creating to archive the Baca County stories we have heard our entire lives.

Orville Ewing’s Postcards

I don’t live in Baca County Colorado anymore, but it is the place where I grew up and still call home. It will always be home. This mini writing adventure began after I shared the picture below of my grandma holding what I now believe to be Orville Ewing’s wooden rifle in front of his wagon. The wagon was sitting in front of my grandparents store on 10th street in Springfield, Colorado. Based on the car in the background the approximate time frame for the picture was mid to late 1950’s. The photograph, not a postcard, interestingly enough is what sparked this post about postcards.

Following the Facebook share of the photo a few questions arose on how Orville was related to Elden Ewing, who was known to the locals as “Dink” or  “Dinker”.  Dinker was the Pritchett City Marshall. Orville was his dad.

Orville Ewing is one of the many colorful characters who has lived in Baca County Colorado.   Born in Indiana in 1888, he graduated from Newcastle High School in 1910. Having artistic interests, he attended an art school in Chicago for a period of time. Orville last resided in Pritchett, Colorado in Baca county passing away in 1978.

In his younger years he delivered the mail from the Baca county communities of Joy Coy to Buster, Two Flues and Atlanta.  Orville gave up oil painting because the paint affected his health and started pencil sketching instead in 1938.  Also that year he began a unique odyssey. Orville traveled the the highways and byways of America for the next 30 years in a wagon.  His wife Olive describes the wagon in the 1983 Baca County history book:

His conveyance was a covered wagon, not the high wheeled Conestoga type used by the early pioneers, but a small unit on rubber wheels.  

This link takes you to the only known video clip of Orville’s wagon.  The video clip is attributed to George & Rella Duchow of Potter, WI

He made his living primarily by sketching, drawing and selling postcards of himself and his menagerie as he made his way from coast to coast.

There are an abundance of references to him such as a 1959 Lodi California news article which described Orville as an easy-going, gnarled, sunburned  old timer.  His travels are well documented and certainly amazing but postcards of him and his menagerie are the piece of his story which makes it live on.  The Hinton (Indiana) News – Jun 30, 1955  says Orville Ewing took Monon (Indiana) “by storm as he has every town that lay on his winding path.”  It also describes all of his worldly goods being carried in the wagon including… several thousand  color postcards.

No longer hidden in an old box in my mom’s basement,  I have a few of these postcards, similar to the one below:

Below is another sample provided by permission of Sylvia Harrison from the collection of her grandmother Elsie Hargis.

I also remember seeing several of these postcards over the years, but never really thought about how many of them may have been sold in the 30 plus years he was on the road. The volume of postcards emphasize the extent of his travels and his contact with people all over the United States. Orville Ewing’s travels are alive and well even today when you look on eBay or do a Google images search for “Orville Ewing” .    Do this once and you will realize he sold a lot and I mean a lot of post cards. The image below is a small sampling of the staggering volume of these postcards for sale on ebay and various other online locations.

Many of the postcards have only a picture, however one of the postcards proclaims:

I was an artist until 1937 when too much paint got into my system and I was forced to give up this work. In 1938 I started out for the San Francisco World’s Fair, arriving in 1939. Soon after my arrival I shipped my outfit back to Colorado and then started for the New York World’s Fair. I arrived in New York in 1940 and was back again in Colorado in 1941. The touring menagerie has traveled from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Canada to the Mexican border. One of the most interesting features of the menagerie is the six year old ox who weighs 1500 pounds. The Menagerie makes about ten miles a day. I was born in Indiana and now in 1943 am fifty-five years old. I have spent most of my time in the West since 1916

There are many groups that revolve around collecting postcards.  One such group in a  2007 newsletter tells us:

The message (on one of the members postcards) mentions that he smelled just as strong as his goats.  When the postcard club member interviewed Ewing’s widow and son in 1989  he mentioned the ‘goatly’ odor. They claimed,

Never bothered us, he was rarely home.

A USGenWeb Project  archive has more Orville postcards.  The USGenWeb Project  consists of a group of volunteers providing Internet websites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States.  This site provides great insight about the type of postcards Orville likely sold. According to the USGenWeb Penny Postcard Archive there were three primary postcards made during the time Orville wandered the US.   (NOTE:  Although this post focuses on Orville Ewing, another Baca County son, Jack Ratliff is also featured in the Baca County section of the this archive. It appears he also sold quite a few post cards)

  • Linen (1930 – 1945) – These colorful postcards were mass produced on a fiber board that had a linen-y texture
  • Chrome (1939 – Present) – These cards look like a color photograph.
  • Real Photo Postcards (1900 – Present) – These cards are real, black and white photos. On the back, the publisher put the photo process in the stamp box: Kodak, AZO, EKC, KRUXO, VELOX

Source:  US GenWeb Penny Postcard Archive

The postcards are just one part of this story.   Orville Ewing was a cultural link to a time  and a pace of life that no longer exists.  Hopefully we can follow up with more discussion of this true American original.  If you have more quotes comments or stories please comment.

Mrs. Tune, The Sheriff and the Goats

Vesta Tune lived in Springfield Colorado in the 1940′s and 50′s, Prior to that she lived in the Lycan Colorado area (north of the present day town of Walsh Colorado) near the Brooks side of my family.

During a lecture on “Women of the Dust Bowl” presented by Dr. Sara Jane Richter of Panhandle State University at the Altus OK public library on August 27, 2009 she referenced a story about a lady from Texhoma OK tending cows during the dust bowl era by the name of “Vesta Tuna?”

Following the lecture we discussed whether this person from Texhoma and the person which lived in Springfield CO could be the same person. Inspired by this question I have subsequently pulled from my brain archive, a tale about this person. I retrieved some campaign propaganda that my Granddad, Luther Huckaby, used when running for Sheriff of Baca County Colorado in the early 50s as well as a picture of Mrs. Tune and some “Anti Huckaby” signs. She painted these signs after Grandad, serving as City Marshal in Springfield, confiscated her goats sometime in the 1940′s.

Luther Huckaby for Sheriff Campaign Materials from the early 1950′s

Luther Huckaby Campaign Materials

Luther Huckaby Badge

My granddad Robert Luther Huckaby was born in Bosque County Texas (West of Waco) in the 1890’s. His mother died when he was small and his father remarried. By the time he was 14 he was having some disagreements with his stepmother and set out on his own. He made his way north and claimed a homestead in Southeastern Colorado just north of the panhandle town of Kenton Oklahoma

In the 1940’s he worked as city marshal with various duties being assigned including one as city water manager. At that time there was a lady, Vesta Tune, living in a dugout on the south part of town near the city power plant. The plant had water cooled engines and with big pipes and valves that controlled the flow of water. Mrs. Tune often staked out her goats who grazed, turned the valves and subsequently turned off the water which cooled these engines. Granddad had warned her multiple times not do this and finally after many warnings he confiscated her goats and threw them in the cityjail/dog pound.

That began a feud that lasted into the 1950’s when my granddad ran for Sheriff. During his campaign Mrs Tune would always campaign against him by painting signs that she would place over the goats and lead through the County Fair Parade. He served 2 terms and one picture I recall said,

Huckaby stole my goat don’t give him your vote

The other, with Mrs. Tune and her campaign team, is shown above with what I believe it is the Springfield CO courthouse in the background says, “Vote against Huckaby a step toward law enforcement.” I guess it didn’t work as he was elected to a couple of terms as sheriff.

A couple of interesting notes:
1) Mrs. Tune was a very good gardener and used residual warm water from the power plant to water her garden. She apparently could start her garden a little earlier in the spring than most folks in Springfield as the warm water helped warm
up the ground when most of the southeastern Colorado prairie was still too cold to start planting.

2)My grandma and Mrs. Tune apparently got along pretty well as they were both gardeners and often chatted about gardening.

Vesta Toon and her goat

 I Have Mrs Tune’s Goat Cart! An Update.

Here is an update from Mrs. Tune, The Sheriff and the Goats original post on my old site.  The original post is shown above.  Also, I am now the proud owner of a goat cart.  This is not just any goat cart.  It was owned by Vesta Tune  who was the subject of a post Mrs. Tune, The Sheriff and the Goats from my old site.  I was visiting with Chuck Wilson in my hometown of Springfield Colorado when the topic of Mrs. Tune came up.  I told him the story below and he said “you want her Goat Cart”.  It seems Chuck’s mom had acquired it years ago and had used it as a flower bed all these years.

This is re posted with Permission from

Views from  This post has already been read 1843 times!

Original Post  September 4, 2009 on original site: Ning Views: 74

Comments from Original Ning Site

Comment by Kent Brooks on February 14, 2011 at 12:14am Delete Comment

I recently spoke to Mark Schmidt, an attorney in Springfield Colorado who recalls the following about my Granddad and Mrs. Tune.   “The story I heard (and I can’t remember whether it was Howard or Warren who told me) is as follows:  Vesta led a pregnant goat in the Fair Parade the year Luther first ran for Sheriff in the 50’s.  The sign on the goat read:  “Don’t let Huckaby get your goat like he got mine.”

Comment by Kent Brooks on October 5, 2009 at 11:43am Delete Comment

After Telling this story to one of our campus security officers, Jose Arce, he did a little homework for me. He found the following death record from

Vesta Tune 6 Mar 1874 May 1969 Goodwell, Texas, Oklahoma

A Tale of Sheet Music

Posted with Permission of Kathryn Neufeld
(Kent Brooks’ mother-in-law) 

The last page was turned and I was sad to see there was no more music to play. For several days I had been playing through a stack of sheet music. Music that was written before my time. Some were dated as far back as 1926 but the majority showed dates in the ’40’s. Some were familiar tunes that had carried on through time, but most of the music I was experiencing for the first time.

My daughter, Heidi Brooks,  had given me the stack of music from her mother-in-law’s house. She had asked if I was interested in the music and thinking “I don’t need anything else in my house,” I said “no.” But I soon changed my mind when she said she would dispose of them. I didn’t want to see them thrown away, and besides, I didn’t have to keep them but could contact an antique dealer to see if they would purchase the music.

Juanita Huckaby had written her signature in cursive on the front of each composition. I felt like I knew Juanita from the first day I met her. She was such a down-to-earth person and she welcomed our family into her home the first time we were in Springfield, CO. However, I can probably count on one hand, maybe two, the times I actually was in her presence. After playing through all 91 songs in the pile of sheet music, I got a glimpse of a much younger woman than the one with whom I was acquainted.

Did Juanita play the piano? It was never mentioned and I never asked. She had a piano, an old grand upright, in her house. Surely she must have tickled the ivories with so much music in her possession. There was also a book to learn how to play the oboe, another book showing how to play the accordion, and a book for the Magnus chord organ. Hmm…did she ever play these instruments? I must ask her family the next time I see them.

This young woman, Juanita, must have supported the troops during WW II as so much of the music was written in the 1940’s. The lyrics alluded to times during the war and after the war. Here are a few titles: “Comin’ In On a Wing and a Prayer,” “G.I. Jive,” “I Wish I Could Hide Inside This Letter,” “Say a Pray’r For The Boys Over There,” and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” Also included in the pile of music was the official song of “The Army Air Corps,” as well as “The Marine’s Hymn.”

And she must have been a young lady “up-to-date with the times” because much of the music was highlighted in Broadway shows or in the motion pictures. Famous singers adorned the cover pages of the music. Some names I recognized, such as Judy Garland, Ginger Rogers, Frank Sinatra, and Johnny Mercer. There was music by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein. Many names I had never heard before. I wondered who they were and if they might have been the popular singers and song writers of the decade. It brought to mind how brief life is and within two or three decades a person may not even be a lingering memory.

Favorites of mine were the Christmas songs “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “White Christmas.”

One of the most unusual of all the sheet music was entitled “I’m a Big Girl Now.” The cover has doodles in ink pen and the picture of Sammy Kaye had been glorified with a mustache and goatee. One ear was grossly enlarged and a bow was drawn in the hair. Sammy Kaye’s name was covered with the name Ernest Bond. Also under Juanita’s signature was the signature of Ernest Bond. Who was this man? You can wonder with me as you read some of the lyrics.

Me and my childhood sweetheart have come to the parting of the ways,
He still treats me like he did in our baby days;
I’m a little bit older, a little bit bolder since both of us were three.
There’s a change in my talking, there’s a change in my walking,
He oughta take one good look at me.
I’m a BIG GIRL NOW, I wanna be treated like a big girl now.
I’m tired of wearing bobby sox like kiddies do,
I’m tired of goin’ to dances in a flatheeled shoe.
I want the boys to look at me and yell “woo-woo,”
(words and music by Al Hoffman, Milton Drake and Jerry Livingston
copyright 1946 by WORLD MUSIC, INC. 607 Fifth Ave., New York 20, NY) 

Juanita’s memory has faded, so we may never know who inscribed his name over Sammy Kaye’s. I’ll have to ask the family next time I see them.

The prices listed on the sheet music varied from 25 cents to 50 cents. I’m thinking Juanita’s parents must have had a good bank account to allow her to accumulate so much music. Or perhaps she had an after school job in downtown Springfield to get some extra spending money. Hmm…wonder if someone in her family could clue us in.

I’m keeping some of the music but wonder how much the antique dealer will think the other 81 copies of sheet music are worth? I’ll wait a while to check. I might as well enjoy playing the music one more time. Might find some interesting lyrics that I missed. And better make sure the family really doesn’t want the music. After reading the lyrics to “I’m a Big Girl Now,” my son-in-law just might want to check out some of the other lyrics and get a glimpse of his mother when she was young.

NOTE: I have a complete listing of the titles which I will add as soon as they are transcribed.


My Link To The Old West…

My Link to the Old West originally appeared on Boody’s Blog: Missives from Mythtickle and is re posted with permission from Justin Thompson

Last summer, 2008, I found something out from my Dad that was absolutely astounding. Now this ain’t a myth, this is true. I’m shootin’ ya’ straight here.

My family and I, wife and two little kids, then 6 and 2, drove out to see my Dad in the farm country of Southeast Colorado. He grew up out there in the ’20s and ’30s and finally retired there. I did a bit of growing up in the Denver suburb called ‘Littleton’ back in the day, but anyway…

Lots of driving, over 3,700 miles in 12 days, and we made the most of it and saw lots of neat stuff. Including the Denver Zoo and the Albuquerque Museum of Natural History. We also saw the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and the crisp sprawling beauty of southern Wyoming. We visited with my dad for a few days out there in the plains where he grew up and I found out some weird stuff that I never knew. My Dad never talked much about himself when I was a kid.

So dad was 89 years old last summer, he and my Mom adopted me when he was 43. His Dad (my Granddad) died in 1935 at 80 years old- when my Dad was only 16! You might want to read that again because frankly, if I were reading this on someone’s blog I’d have too. But here’s the startling thing: Gid Thompson (that was my Granddad’s name) and his brother Bill, fled the Carolinas when they were kids, probably to avoid possible conscription in the confederate army of the civil war in the mid 1860s. Over the following decade, in their early teens, they both slowly made their way out West apparently by nefarious means. They reportedly killed a guy in Kansas near Dodge City, this is documented, and robbed him of about 4 thousand dollars. They fled Dodge as many outlaws did at that time by crossing the border into Colorado’s Baca County. They bought up a good amount of land and set up a homestead there. About 10 miles south of the old place they settled on, was a town called Boston. That town was frequented by outlaws and spillover scum from Kansas and was eventually burned down by that same ilk sometime in the late 1880s. At some point, Gid and Bill were arrested for the gunning down of a Sheriff in the main street of Boston, I think his name was Smith or Miller or something, and Bill went to jail for it. They were both caught and went to trial a few years before about the aforementioned murder of that guy in Kansas. Gid spent time in Leavenworth for that but was strangely out in two years. Bill wound up spending a couple of years in jail for the murder of that lawman in Boston, Colorado. It seems that in both cases, one brother took the full rap for the other and was strangely out in two years. For MURDER!

It’s so quiet out there now, but it was a very different place in the late 19th century. A lawyer who was looking up stuff for my Dad recently uncovered these facts in a book about Baca county, and I read the excerpts while I was out there.

One of the many things I found amazing when hearing about the past of Baca county, is that many things we see in TV shows and movies about the old west actually happened in that town of Boston and in that county and the stories were handed down to following generations in the old oral traditions. But because none of the major players involved had a “catchy name”, the people and even the town itself faded as ashes into the dust of memory. If one of the shooters in that town had a name like ‘Bat’ or ‘McGrew’ or ‘Ringo’ or something, they’d still be singing about it. But‘Thompson’ just doesn’t have a ‘catch’ to it that would make its owner immediately famous. (Boy, I’m sure finding THAT out) But the deeds were still done, even though they are not sung.

Now, all that remains is the old Boston graveyard on a hill nearby. My dad and I went there a few years ago and from that graveyard hill you can still look across the farm road and see the tiered flat ground that were the city foundations once. It’s been plowed over dozens of times since then and you can barely make it out. I never knew until this trip what a wild and bloody town that was, and the part my Dad’s father played in it.

Cool trip, I must say.  But think of this, my ‘Grandfather’ was alive when Lincoln was alive. Not Great Grandfather, not Great, Great, Great Grandfather, my Grandad. Makes me feel old to think about it but I’m really not. I’m only in my late 40s.

So fast-forward to this last January, the eve of the President’s inaguration: Dad called me to talk. The last couple of times I had spoken with him on the phone that week, he had seemed grouchy and tired. Exactly how he seemed when I was a kid, but not how he’s sounded in many years. He called to tell me that he’s putting his ducks in a row- or as he called it, ‘closing the gates’. He turned 90 this past April. He said that he wanted to finalize any loose ends so that his affairs won’t be in such a mess when he ‘goes’. The weight of the conversation kept me from asking, “Gee, aren’t ya’ gonna’ watch the inauguration?” He wouldn’t have liked that I don’t think, being as… let’s say ‘non-progressive’ about politics and such.

But despite this fact, and with the burden of a life-discussion on our backs, I let it alone and hung up and began to reflect on the extraordinary bookend that my Dad closes in the twilight of his life and in the hand to hand of his father and himself. Chiefly, that his father walked the Earth with President Lincoln, he breathed the same air as slaves, and heard the first cannons of American civil rights shaking the clouds.

And that man’s son, will likely die under a black President.
About the Author of this Post:
Justin Thompson is the creator of the Mythtickle online comic strip. It’s a comic strip set in the mythical plane of influence. Characters from myth and legend from around the world live here and seem to get along just fine.

Justin can be found:
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Twitter @Mythtickle Mission
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