April 14th marks the 75th anniversary of an event that, while almost completely forgotten today, probably did as much as anything else to improve hunting and fishing in a large part of the country. Everyone, of course, is familiar with the term “Dust Bowl.” But it was the unbelievable dust storm that hit the southern plains on April 14, 1935, “Black Sunday”, that inspired the term.
From the story in the Amarillo Globe-News:
Palm Sunday, a week before Easter, dawned bright and calm through the Oklahoma and northern Texas panhandles. People were in church, planning afternoon picnics, catching up on farm chores in the clear weather. The day began warm and pleasant, a welcome respite from the dust storms that had peppered the area a month earlier.
…Within hours, though, many who had lived in the hard times of the Depression and through dust storms, thought the world was ending. They were caught in a blinding blizzard of dust, of horrific wind, in a choking fit of panic. It was known as Black Sunday – April 14, 1935 – the worst of the worst in the days of the Dust Bowl. The day after the storm, an Associated Press reporter used the term “Dust Bowl” for the first time, and it stuck to describe a prolonged period of economic peril and agricultural destruction, all in a frightening fury of blinding dust and howling winds.
So where’s the connection between hunting, fishing, and Black Sunday? It jarred our national conservation consciousness in a way nothing else ever had. In fact, the Dust Bowl, in a very real sense, spawned the modern conservation movement (not preservation, but conservation). It spurred the creation of agencies like the Soil Conservation Service and instigated new farming technologies to mitigate wind and water erosion, and in the process create wildlife habitat. Prior to the Dust Bowl things like contour plowing, terraces, shelterbelts and strip disking were unheard of. Additionally, most people – even hunters – don’t realize that many of today’s national grasslands are actually failed Dust Bowl homesteads bought back by the government and allowed to return to native prairie. Today those grasslands, those mute, lonely reminders of heartbreak and hell, provide some of the finest public upland bird hunting in the nation.
So take a moment to remember Black Sunday, and – as weird as it sounds – thank it for much of what we enjoy today…