November 18, 2010

God In The Bad Times - Martha Anderson

We do not know the true value of our moments until they have undergone the test of memory. ~ George Duhamel

November has been designated as a month for remembering so I’m traveling back to my earliest years. I made my entry into this world when the Canadian prairies were sinking into the depression years. The Dirty Thirties, as they became known, brought a change in the weather pattern, resulting in unusually cold winters and extreme heat in summer. Before this change the farmers in western Canada had struggled and sacrificed to carve farms out of the untamed prairies. They had made the most of the resources at hand to build a future for their families. In the ensuing drought during this unusual weather conditions their dreams blew away in clouds of dust, grasshoppers, and Russian thistle.

In a recent newspaper column the writer commented that during the thirties some Canadians wore undergarments made of flour sacks. To her this was unthinkable. As a child I didn’t know there were any other kind. The load of flour my father hauled home each fall and stashed away in a corner of the basement provided more than mounds of bread to feed a growing family of nine children. The bags, washed and sun-bleached, were fashioned into anything from slips and bed sheets to embroidered table cloths, only one of the ways they improvised.

In thinking back to my early years, one particular day in 1937 stands out in my memory. I tried to capture the experience of that day when I penned the following words some years ago: 
In hope, the farmer plows his field
Guiding the sweaty team along the furrows
Shears slice the crusted soil
Turned clods crumble into powdery dust
Blood-shot eyes search the empty sky
For a sign of coming rain.

Coughing, he reaches for the jug beside him
And lifts the warm water to his parched lips
Perspiration trickles from his swarthy brow
He wipes his face with his red handkerchief
While his eyes scan the canopy above, hoping,
Praying for much needed rain
For clouds to hide the relentless sun -
Relief for man and beast from the burning heat -
Yes, a small cloud is forming on the horizon
He watches it darken and expand as it approaches
His heart swelling with a new surge of hope
Rain is on the way

Rain, he shouts, the word sweet on his tongue -
The cloud climbs higher blotting out the sun
Then suddenly the whole world turns black -
No ordinary thunder storm is brewing here -
With apprehension he stares into the darkness
Hope of rain grows faint

The horses trod through the thickening dust
To the yard where he quickly unhooks the traces
And stables the animals in the barn
As he stumbles to the house the cloud envelopes him
Billowing dust stinging his unseeing eyes -
Not a drop of rain

Only drifting dirt and swarms of grasshoppers
Clouds without water -
Dashing his hopes in the dust -
No rain.      

Despite the hardships of those years, my parents daily expressed their gratitude to God for making it possible to feed our growing family and anyone else who came by. It was that confidence in an unfailing God that kept them going through those trying years.

God promises in the Holy Scriptures that He will give us daily responsibilities, but He is the Lord God who will help us bare them, He is the God that rescues from death (Psalm 68).


  1. Life in the dirty thirties was tough, faith of farmers was strong, providence of God was sure-you said it well in your poem.

  2. You describe that very well, Martha. Where would we be without faith? Where would the dust-bowl farmers have been without faith?

    Sharon Espeseth

  3. Love the memories and their lessons.


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