Everyone Knows It’s Windy

By Gordon Hopkins

Who’s peekin’ out from under a stairway
Calling a name that’s lighter than air
Who’s bending down to give me a rainbow
Everyone knows it’s Windy
-from the song, “Windy,” by The Association

“If the wind rises it can push us against the flood when it comes.” – Ernest Hemingway

So it’s been a little windy lately. Maybe you noticed. I certainly noticed. I figured it out about the third time I had to go chasing my trash can down the alley.
How desperate does a newspaper columnist have to be for material before he resorts to writing about the weather? I guess I’m there.
If you’ve set foot outdoors, for even a moment, you’ve noticed how windy it is. Even if you haven’t gone outside, you’ve probably heard the wind whistling and howling through the cracks and crevices of your home. Whooooooo! As I write these words, my house sounds like an old Boris Karloff movie. Spooky.
Okay, so Nebraska is a windy state. Still, this wind has been going on pretty much non stop for days and it strikes me as a bit peculiar. I’ve known pretty windy days before but I don’t ever recall the wind going on for days and days like this. As there are more and more reports of the ongoing damage the human species is doing to our environment, I become more and more twitchy at every aberration in weather.
Here in the Heartland, we all know what a malevolent wind can do. Anyone who is a product of the Nebraska school system knows it’s happened before. We called it the dust bowl. In the 1930’s, the country was already suffering from the Great Depression and an ongoing drought. Dry lands and high winds combined to cover the land with choking dust storms.
Yesterday was April 14, an important anniversary. On that day, in 1935, a massive cloud of dust rolled over a America, not just Nebraska but Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas as well. Day became night as the cloud of dust and sand and dirt blotted out the sun. Everything was coated in a thick layer of dust. It was the single worst storm of the Dust Bowl and became known as “Black Sunday.”
The cause if well known. Years of drought and bad land management practices. The results are also well known. Crops withered and livestock died and humans as well, thanks to a condition known as “dust pneumonia.” Plus, the agricultural disaster led to further poverty and hunger for an already suffering American population.
For those grousing about the wind, a little perspective is a nice thing.
Do I think a new dust bowl is imminent? No, of course not.
Still, it makes me nervous. I can’t help but think about a novel. No, not the obvious. Not Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” Instead, I find myself reminded of another book I read as a teenager, and not one shoved down my throat by a teacher, “The Wind From Nowhere.” That was the title of British science fiction author J. G. Ballard’s first published novel.
It was also the first of four novels that dealt with ecological disaster. In each one, Ballard found a different way to destroy the world; “The Drowned World” (floods), “The Burning World” (drought), “The Crystal World” (a phenomena that crystallizes everything it touches) and “The Wind from Nowhere” (yes, the world is destroyed by wind). In that book, a wind of unknown cause and constantly increasing velocity eventually reduces the world to rubble and drives the population of the Earth underground. Again, I don’t think that’s happening either.


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