When we think about the Great Depression from the 1930s, we think of the images of pathetic apple vendors on New York City streets, or people lining up for soup kitchens, or families fleeing dust storms billowing over prairie landscapes, or other grim scenes. We hear stories of hardship handed down by our grandparents. We remember the sad cases of people losing everything they owned when the stock market crashed.
What we don’t hear very often are people who (mostly) escaped the hardship and deprivation of the 30s altogether... because they were independent farmers in parts of the country not hit by drought.
Reader Sidetracksusie left this comment on my Why Be Normal? post which was so fascinating I didn’t want it buried. She wrote:
An old rancher in Wyoming shared with me that he was not aware there was ever a depression: he had no stock in Wall Street, only stock with four legs; no money in a bank, only what was in his pocket. He rode out to care for cattle every day, cut hay with a team of horses, ran his simple irrigation ditches, fixed his fence with tools and wire he all ready owned. He pushed cattle to mountain pastures in the spring and brought them back in the fall. He didn't have tv, radio or a newspaper. He just had his work and his land. Prices of beef went up and down. He never have many clothes, and no fancy ones, but kept a good heavy coat, gloves, hats, scarves.
He found it strange that "normal" people thought they could make something from nothing and would jump off buildings (something he read years later) when they found out it didn't work. He was happy he lived in what he learned was "fly-over" country.
My mother's parents fared those same years in much the same way…they were poor and raised every bite they ate, buying only salt and such. No savings in a bank that they "lost". Nothing much changed for them, other than they shared what they had with more people. Country bumpkins that were probably looked down upon, previously, and that in years to come, were most likely looked down upon again, living life simply by the labors of their hands, content to sit on the front porch and visit, to play cards with the extended family and neighbors, to have potlucks after church.
They had little but I guess they had enough and they seemed secure and content for as long as I was honored to have them as my grandparents on this earth.
This is an intriguing notion -- to be independent enough that an economic depression more or less passes you by. It shows the strength and benefits of tangible assets (cows, garden, chickens, etc.). Being a "country bumpkin" has some advantages, I guess.
I know it's not possible to be entirely immune from another economic depression -- but it's not a bad goal.