6 November 2015

Published November 4, 2015 by rochellewisoff
Thoreau Dogs

(Not the Prompt)

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The following photo is the PHOTO PROMPT. Please give credit where credit is due, ie the photograph contributor. It’s not just a nice thing to do, it’s PROPER ETIQUETTE. 


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PHOTO PROMPT - © Connie Gayer (Mrs. Russell)

PHOTO PROMPT – © Connie Gayer …(Mrs. Russell)

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Genre: Historically Speculative Fiction

Word Count: 100


            My Ephraim’s shiny eyes was bluer than the April sky. I set him on a blanket where he cooed and sucked his fist. Then I laid out picnic fare for me and Tom.

            “Our wheat’s a-dyin’ of thirst, Cora-Lee,” he said. “I hear tell them know-it-alls in Washington says we’re destroying the land and causing this here weather change.”


            Suddenly a black cloud ripped across the prairie and snuffed out the sun. I choked on dirt as we ran for cover. That day in 2035 Ephraim’s tiny lungs filled with dust and his colorless eyes don’t shine no more.



Dust Bowl

Could it Happen Again? Click.

112 comments on “6 November 2015

  • What has happened can still happen. The great dust storms were horrible and there was no place to hide. Many people suffered and died. And the sad part is that we created the “perfect storm” ourselves. The dust seeped into every nook and cranny. It was fine as talcum powder. I experienced a dust storm in the 50’s while living in a small trailer in Wichita, Kansas. Very scary. Thanks for reminding us of the power of nature. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  • It must have been truly terrible. Nature tends to remind us, from time to time, that she only lends us her beauty for a while. Nicely done, as ever, in your own inimitable style.


  • I think this is a future that might be speculative.. I love when you tied the past to future by introducing the year 2035 to a story that I thought first was in the past. To me it talks of climate change and disasters to come on that very personal level… What have we done to our children?

    Excellent take.


    • Dear Björn,

      You went exactly where I wanted you to go. I don’t know how one can dispute climate change when the Dust Bowl of the Depression was a frightening example of how people can bring on such a cataclysmic disaster. We live, but do we learn?

      Thank you.




  • C… I see the C with your name, but I can’t give criticism, only praise. 🙂 Everything in your story works for me, the voices, the setting, the realism, the background information. I admire how, with a few well selected words, you manage to tug on our heartstrings and bring the message home in a way no factual report of such an event could. In short: I love it.


  • Wow, you totally caught me on that one. I misread the year the first time through, and thought it was a touching story about a family suffering in the Dust Bowl. Then I noticed the year and read it again, and bam! Great twist with the “doomed to repeat history” lesson!


  • This would be a mother’s worst nightmare. It’s really a scary thought that the Dust Bowl, or something similar, could happen again. Greed seems to be at the bottom of most problems like this. Will we never learn? Well written as always, Rochelle. —– Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

  • Who wrote this? Eric of Momus News? You have surprised me, Rochel. Love the story with the big twist at the end. That photo looks right out of Madison Woods playbook. Please tell Connie to say “hello” to that old clown for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  • C — Rochelle, Let me begin by saying that the story pulled on my heartstrings and I wanted to rush to take cute little Ephraim to safety. So it worked well in that it “took me there”.

    I had to re-read the second para because of the bad grammar . Then it stuck me that the bad grammar was deliberate to show us the ignornace of the speaker in many aspects. That was an interesting technique to evoke an image of an illiterate man.

    Scary future you have painted there. Don’t know what’s worse: bad grammar or dust storms 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Ansumani,

      Anyone who knows me can tell you how much I abhor bad grammar. However, I also live in an area where I hear these speech patterns on a regular basis. Such is the Midwest. Yes, my use of it was deliberate to create the character in as few words as possible. Sorry you had to read twice…well not really 😉

      Thank you for your kind crit.



      Liked by 1 person

  • I like how you played with time in this story. It sadly shows that we humans rarely learn the lessons Mother Nature tries to show us. Kudos.

    My mother grew up in Bristol, CO during the dust bowl (I think I’ve told you this). She has some amazing stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Tracey,

      My husband’s family is from a Northeast Missouri farming community and I can tell you, it’s not 1930’s vernacular. These people still speak this way. In any event I’m pleased the juxtaposition was unsettling for you in a good way.

      Thank you.



      Liked by 2 people

  • Ohmigosh. The dust bowl. Overfarming helped trigger it in the thirties, right during the Depression. Yeah it could happen again if we keep going with monocrop industrialized farming. It’s a major concern. Your stories are always so aware and enlightening. Loved it, Rochelle. By the way, I forgot to put a C on my link for the concrit group.. Can you help?


  • Historically speculative fiction. It strikes me that doubters of climate change say this is what scientists and the media are feeding us. And yet history repeats itself over and over again…excellent take on the photo and excellent projection forward in the final “twist.”


    • Dear Lillian,

      I’d originally planned my story to simply be historical fiction. What struck me as I researched was that so much of the dust bowl was ‘man-made.’ How can you look at history and not see it coming in the future? I was once one of those naysayers but have had to rethink my stance.

      Thank you for such a wonderful comment.



      Liked by 1 person

  • i always think that we can only abuse nature up to a point. when it can’t stand it anymore, it heals itself. dust storms. el niños. earthquakes. these are some of the tools that it uses to set things aright.


  • So sad. That last sentence is heart wrenching. “Ephraim’s tiny lungs filled with dust and his colorless eyes don’t shine no more.” We get dust storms like that in Australia. Frightening events where everyone is warned to stay inside but still the dust gets through everything. I have no doubt that your 1935 will happen again but hopefully later that 2035.


  • Dear Swifty,
    I recently watched the documentary about the dust bowl days. It’s hard to believe that went on for ten years. Growing up, I wondered why so many fields in our area had man-made terraces–now I know.

    Thankfully, we haven’t had a dust bowl type storm in a long time. However, we still have an occasional Bean Bowl storm. Man, those really make your eyes burn and deplete the oxygen.

    Better keep the garden hose handy,
    Captain Who-Cut-The-Cheese Whiz


  • C – great story, Rochelle, and so clever how you mislead us to thinking it’s set in the past and then give us the year. I wonder though if you could use other words than ‘choked’, ‘rolled’ and ‘blotted’ – for me those verbs are a little over-used.


      • Rolled could be boiled, billowed, ballooned, or perhaps better, roiled. And blotted out could be absorbed, consumed, devoured – which perhaps also sound more menacing. But of course, all personal taste!


        • Good thoughts….although the voice here is that of a farmer’s wife who doesn’t have great command of the language. I’ve also thought of rippled which is how folk singer Woody Guthrie described the dust cloud back in the day. Choked is more in keeping with Cora-Lee’s character, but ‘blotted’ is expendable. (You may see changes later. 😉 )

          Liked by 1 person

  • Really moving. Washington was right that time.
    (Farmers are so resistant to science and change – in Italy the olive groves are being destroyed by some little beetle, but the farmers won’t respond as they should, so things get worse.)
    And you got the voices just right – I assume.


    • Dear Patrick,

      My husband’s family is primarily made up of rural folk. I’m quite sure I got the voice right. 😉
      This seems to be a universal problem, since universally we’re destroying the planet. 😦

      Thank you.




  • Dear Rochelle

    What a nightmare, to die that way, choking on dust! Yet another superb take on a tragic happening. You are so clever at making the reader feel deeply about your characters in so few words.

    Sorry I haven’t been participating in Friday Fictioneers for many weeks. Have been working on my publishing project with brain-aching concentration. Nearly there.

    Lovely to be back 🙂

    All best wishes


  • Finally had time to read your write. Powerful, doesn’t begin to cover it. Loved it. Really needed some destructive inspiration for my current writing project, too. Thanks a bunch! I think I like the second picture better than the photo prompt. I remember my Gr. Granpa speaking of the great dust bowl days. It sounded horrifying.


  • I too, like how you tied this story from the future to the past to create a what if? speculation. I think the voice is strong and adds a lot to the piece. We humans should realize the earth doesn’t need us to exist, but we need it!


  • Indeed, I think it could happen again very easily, Rochelle. I too like the tie in with the past. What is more tragic than seeing a baby take its last breath? I thought your description about his last breath as his tiny lungs filling with dust was most effective! Do these dust storms happen suddenly like this? I’m asking, I’m not sure.


    • Dear Amy,

      If we’ve learned nothing from the past it’s that we’ve learned nothing from the past.

      My husband experienced a dust storm in Western Kansas as boy. He assures me they happen that suddenly. (If you don’t ask, you don’t know. 😉 )

      Thank you.



      Liked by 1 person

  • A very powerful story, well told. I shudder to attempt concrit of your work, but we can be positive as well as negative so here goes:
    C – These are wonderfully strong voices – the language giving an idea of the people and their lives.
    The 1935-2035 juxtaposition is also very clever and adds a stronger thought-provoking element.
    My only change would be word choices – ‘a black cloud rippled’ sounds/ feels too gentle for the mood and outcome of the piece. I think I read it as ‘ripped’ the first time. Also dirt and dust sound similar, almost like a repetition. I tried for some alternatives (soot, fifth, grime, sand, earth) but I’m not sure any of them fit as well.


    • Dear Sarah Ann,

      There’s no one among us who can’t benefit from concrit.

      Claire had said something about my use of rolled in my original version so I changed it to rippled. Woody Guthrie used the verb in one of his Dust Bowl songs. I think you’re right about ‘ripped.’ It does sound stronger.

      As for dirt and dust, I think I’ll leave them as is. the strength of the story is the rural American voice. So average vocabulary has to be taken into consideration.

      Ironically, the original Black Sunday was April 14, 1935. In looking at the future calendar, April 14, 2035 is Saturday. Very close.

      Thank you for the crit and compliments.




  • C-
    Heartbreaking, Rochelle, and very vividly done. As I’m looking down on one who coo and sucks his fist at the moment, it felt all too personal and brought tears to my eyes. Also, we’re in the middle of watching Interstellar at the moment, so this definitely felt like future not past to me right from the beginning.
    One thing that pulled me up was the use of “we’re” causing climate change. It wasn’t clear to me what scale she was referring to for we – farmers, America, humans, etc – there are arguments for / against all of the above, and I would have liked to know whether “Hogwash” was personal defence (it’s not us farmers, it’s them personal-jet-fliers in Washington) or climate change denial.

    Sorry it’s taken me a while to get on to reading.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Jen,

      Beside the word limit, I did indeed want to allude to the fact that ‘we’re’ all responsible for climate change…ie hole in the ozone, water pollution, fracking, and all the lovely things we do on a daily basis to destroy our planet. A little difference between then and now.

      I hope you’re all recovering nicely from your plague.

      Thank you.




      • Sorry if my comment wasn’t clear; I got that, it’s just when she says that Washington says ‘we’ are resposinble, I read that at first as “Washington is blaming farmers for or own problems” and wasn’t dure if you intended that, or if you meant “we’re all responsible”, ie humanity as a whole. Adding either ‘all’ or ‘the ones’ would save the confusion … if you wanted to.


        • Hmmm….when you put it that way, I think I want the confusion left in. Although I don’t think of it as confusion. Because in this case it could go both ways. I hope that makes sense.

          And tomorrow…onto a new one. 😉

          PS I think the concrit subgroup was a success this week.

          Liked by 1 person

  • C-
    There’s a strong use of parallels and repetition that validate the elements of this story, both in itself and in historically speculative terms. However, I think that you may be able to draw a stronger correlation to the first line with a conclusion that reflects back upon the sky. Ephraim’s eyes go from “bluer than the April sky” to “colorless.” It may appear overwrought or redundant to return focus onto the sky one more time in the last paragraph, but it may also generate a more direct impression of nature’s detriment to compare the child’s dulled eyes to the grim grey overwhelming the entirety of the scene.


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