Monday, April 8, 2013

Monday's Poetry: "Dust Bowl Refugee"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

People pack up their families and move for a variety of reasons, with jobs and economic issues probably being chief among them.  Here in Arizona we see many people coming in for economic reasons.  Our low wage job opportunities (landscaping, fruit-picking, and toilet-cleaning) are a godsend to people from rural Mexico, and they risk their lives daily to cross the border and traverse the mean desert, often on foot, in order to get just the smallest slice of the American dream.

Weather is also a factor that drives people to search for a better life someplace else.  Prolonged droughts can disrupt subsistence farming to the point where the options become move or die.  Middle America in the 1930's underwent a decade or so of severe dust storms that had people moving in an endless stream of humanity to the promised land - California - where they did landscaping, picked fruit, and cleaned toilets.

Today the Arizona winds have been blowing ferociously and the air has been brown.  It set me to thinking about the dust bowl days of the 1930's

America's "dust bowl" days were especially well chronicled by John Steinbeck in his Grapes of Wrath, and in some of the songs of Woody Guthrie.  The following selection by Woody Guthrie combines dust storms and low wages for a feel of what it was like to try and survive during that period of history.

Dust Bowl Refugee
by Woody Guthrie

I'm a dust bowl refugee,
Just a dust bowl refugee,
From that dust bowl to the peach bowl,
Now that peach fuzz is a-killin' me.

'Cross the mountains to the sea,
Come the wife and kids and me.
It's a hot old dusty highway
For a dust bowl refugee.

Hard, it's always been that way,
Here today and on our way
Down that mountain, 'cross the desert,
Just a dust bowl refugee.

We are ramblers, so they say,
We are only here today,
Then we travel with the seasons,
We're the dust bowl refugees.

From the south land and the drought land,
Come the wife and kids and me,
And this old world is a hard world
For a dust bowl refugee.

Yes, we ramble and we roam
And the highway that's our home,
It's a never-ending highway
For a dust bowl refugee.

Yes, we wander and we work
In your crops and in your fruit,
Like the whirlwinds on the desert
That's the dust bowl refugees.

I'm a dust bowl refugee,
I'm a dust bowl refugee,
And I wonder will I always
Be a dust bowl refugee?

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