PBS "Dust Bowl" series stirs up hope for Panhandle tourism
BY TIM TALLEY Associated Press
Thursday, November 22, 2012
11/22/12 at 5:05 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma and Texas panhandles, the geographic center of the 1930s Dust Bowl, are hoping that a recent documentary about what many call the nation's worst man-made disaster could spark renewed tourism in the region.
PBS' two-part television series, "The Dust Bowl," concluded Monday night. The film by Ken Burns featured interviews with Panhandle residents who lived through a decade's worth of drought and wind storms.
Jada Breeden, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce in Guymon, said she has been fielding more calls from tourists and others seeking information about the area since the documentary began airing.
A native of the region, she said even she learned a few things from the series.
"The wind is who we are," said Breeden, whose grandparents lived through the Dust Bowl. "We've had a lot of interest. And I'm sure it's going to pick up."
The No Man's Land Museum in nearby Goodwell has experienced jumps in visitors when other movies and documentaries have focused on the period, museum Director Sue Weissinger said.
The Oklahoma Panhandle was once called No Man's Land after various treaties and federal declarations left no one in charge, although the term seemed appropriate based on a harsh climate, with 20 or fewer inches of rainfall a year.
After the area was opened up to settlement, farmers tilled up native grasses and planted wheat, disrupting the ecosystem to the point that the land suffered.
The Dust Bowl was blamed on poor farming practices and a severe drought that let the Plains' high winds scrape up dirt and carry it, at times, thousands of miles away.
Conservation efforts, tiered farming and better weather helped the area recover.
The No Man's Land Museum, operated by a historical society established in 1934, has photographs from the period and a collection of oral histories.
It has few newspaper articles from the decade, Weissinger said, because local papers sought to concentrate on happier news - not calamity and the Depression.
"The articles are from the '60s," she said. "People didn't talk about the Dust Bowl as it was going on."
The heart of the Dust Bowl included adjacent portions of Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico, but at times storms raged throughout the Midwest.
Original Print Headline: 'Dust Bowl' stirs up hope for tourism