View Full Version : It's Dust Bowl-era Midwest.

06-26-2008, 02:20 AM
And what do I need to know about it?

The plan is a sort-of western crime story, but there are a few things I need to know. From pictures, I know that a lot of the ground is loose and roaming city to city -- but what else? How would the general topography look? I'm talking from around Nebraska going down to Texas and New Mexico areas.

It's in the 1930s, of course. Is that too modern for riding horseback between the states? Are there railroad tracks and roads and highways covering most of the land? Towns right beside each other as there are now, or is there significant spacing between them? It's general stuff like that I need to know or find links to, but I haven't come up with much thus far.

If anyone can help, it'd be greatly appreciated. And anything else about the time period that's interesting or might be useful is, of course, welcome.

06-26-2008, 02:29 AM
There would still have been people running around on horseback.

The desert areas still aren't that developed today, so then, even less. Yes there are railroads and roads.

06-26-2008, 01:38 PM
If you haven't read John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, that'll give you a good feel for that time and place.

06-26-2008, 01:58 PM
There are many maps available on the internet that show the location of railroad lines, roads, towns, etc for different periods of history. And/or, spend some time in your local library or a university library and see what all you can find on the subject - not just the Dust Bowl, but the time period and the states involved.

Have you ever been to the states you want to write about? If not, that would be a good idea. It sounds to me like you know very little about your setting which isn't good. You might be able to put together a decent story, but, my opinion, you need to do a lot of research on your own to make your time period and location authentic. Puma

06-26-2008, 03:47 PM
It's more open prairie than desert but in the Dust Bowl era, there was a major drought which contributed to the soil blowing away. Huge clouds of dust would be blown by the wind, causing dust storms. If one hit, dust filtered in around any small crack or opening, sifted in through doors and windows to pile on the floor. People had to cover their nose and mouth with a cloth to keep from choking on the dust. When a dust storm was over, they had to sometimes dig out things like the well pump or cars or whatever out of the dust.

In the movie "Honky Tonk Man" with Clint Eastwood, there is a good, realistic depiction of a dust storm at the very first of the movie.

Here is an image of that era:

And an image of a looming dust storm:


Some helpful links would be:




06-26-2008, 07:17 PM
Keep in mind that The Depression will color every aspect of the situation. Also, racism is more prevalent and casual; if you're not white and male, you are at the bottom rung, or may as well be. Bear in mind that Irish and Italians aren't considered white. Homeless fill the landscape; depending on the person, this can either be an issue or a blessing, and there is an established hobo code for telling other hobos what's up (as a side note, homeless women are considered loose, and men traveling with boys are frowned upon, unless a familial relationship has been established).

The "global neighborhood" has yet to be established; in fact, the US is definitely isolationist. Although people are reeling from the Stock Market Crash, the general feeling is optimistic thanks to the reforms going on; the government is making sure that pretty much anyone that wants to work is.

Keep in mind that what we consider vices today weren't as much back then. Burlesque and movies were big, and prostitution was in a weird position; boys were taken to a prostitute in their mid-teens, and everyone knew where they were, but they were definitely on the fringes of society. The Mob was actually popular, but that's because they were considered a positive force; a court of last resort, as it were.

Relative to dust bowls specific, bear in mind that a farmer's life was hard, and made harder by the weather; the dust was in everything, and more like the migrant workers of today than what we usually assume for farmers. In essence, farmers formed the lowest rung of society, and were seen as dirty and uncouth.

That should give you enough of a primer....


06-26-2008, 07:28 PM
Just realized: Keep in mind that, relative to detective work, it's incredibly primitive. The biggest upshot is none of the gear available that we are used to, and fingerprints are collected just like postage stamps are today (police usually didn't, and fingerprints were collected by private collectors). Once blame was assigned, it was difficult to prove otherwise...