Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dust Bowl very real to Dandridge family

Last night I watched the encore showing of Ken Burns' Dust Bowl on PBS It is really hard for me to watch. In the early 1920s my grandaddy (Cathey S. Dandridge) packed his family of three boys and a scared wife into an old model T and moved them from Tate County to West Texas and finally to New Mexico.  A WWI veteran, Grandaddy had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and was sent to live in a drier climate.  Little did they know that they were entering a region of the country that would experience one of the worst man-made environmental disasters ever—The Dust Bowl.

The Dust Bowl, photo from Ken Burns' documentary

This year my Daddy has been gone for 15 years. It's hard to believe. He was a master storyteller, and many times recounted tales of their time out West. After watching this wonderful documentary, I did so want to ask him questions—about the 100-mile cattle drives, about the dreaded dust, about life in the dugout house, and so much more.

The Dandridges, L to r, Hayley, Ollie May Dupuy Dandridge,
Cathey S. Dandridge, Ed and Jim.

He spoke often about driving cattle, plowing the dry earth, living under the ground on dirt floors.  Daddy recalled that when the dust came, they shut the windows as tight as they could, but when it left, there was dust between the sheets of the bed, in the cabinets, between stacked dished, and in your hair and mouth.

It all sounded pretty dismal. But I think, to him, it was the adventure of a lifetime. When he and his family returned to Tate County after he graduated from high school in Dora, NM, be brought those Western traditions and the culture of the region back with him.

Cattle are driven to a watering tank at Singleton Ranch in Pride, Texas.

A horseman until his death in 1998, he learned from Cathey relatives out West, observing the handling of horses and cattle, making cowboy gear. I think he even brought back some of that Cowboy Independence with him.

It's a stretch of the imagination to realize that these experiences happened to someone just one generation away.  I'm thankful everyday that my children all were around to know him, to hear his stories, to learn to ride—the cowboy way. We all miss him, but what a cultural inheritance he left us!

Hayley Dandridge driving the team and plowing the dry New Mexico dirt.
He must have been about 11 years old at the time.

Much later back in Tate County on Queen.

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Hailey obviously left his gift of storytelling to his daughter! I was lucky enough to have bought one of his handmade/refashioned saddles as my 'first' saddle. What a talented and entertaining gentleman he was.