Sunday, April 20, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

The dust storm in 1935 that never eased

Dust Bowl survivor Cal Crabill, a longtime Davis resident, recalls his boyhood in Colorado in the 1930s, where his father was a cattle rancher. His family eventually gave up and moved west. Crabill is featured in filmmaker Ken Burns' newest documentary, "The Dust Bowl," which examines the worst ecological disaster in American history. The documentary airs Sunday and Monday, Nov. 18-19, on PBS. Rahoul Ghose, PBS/Courtesy photo

By
From page A1 | November 13, 2012 | Leave Comment

Watch it

Who: Cal Crabill of Davis, featured in Ken Burns’ documentary, “The Dust Bowl”

When: 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday, Nov. 18-19 (repeating at 10 p.m. both nights)

Where: KVIE, Channel 6

Cal Crabill remembers a frightening afternoon from his youth, watching in terror as a massive black cloud stretched toward the country schoolhouse in Holly, Colo., where he and other students had huddled in safety.

“The teacher eventually said to go home, because we were all scared,” recalls Crabill, now 88 and a retired Davis teacher. “I didn’t go home, though. I spent my time rounding up the stock. … As I was doing that, the cloud continued to get closer, and blacker.

“Before the storm hit, it was deathly still. Then, when it hits, bang,” he exclaims. “It was as loud as anything you could imagine. Louder than any thunderstorm. Louder than the crashing sea. It was deafening.”

Crabill also remembers the other severe dust storms of 1935 that devastated millions of acres of farmland in the Midwest, an area that came to be known as the Dust Bowl.

“Within six months, things got so bad that we had lost everything we had,” Crabill says of his family’s ranch.

Instead of storing away the harrowing memory of a terrified 10-year-old boy, Crabill decided to contribute it to a PBS documentary on the Dust Bowl produced by Emmy Award-winning director Ken Burns.

Reading “The Worst Hard Times,” Timothy Egan’s chronicle of the calamity, inspired Crabill to take part in Burns’ production. He said it was directly after reading that book, nearly four years ago, that he responded to PBS’ requests for participation by Dust Bowl survivors.

“If I hadn’t read it when the notice came out from Channel 6, I would’ve said, ‘So what?’ ” Crabill explains. “When I read it, I thought differently. He’s such an artistic writer that he can make the past come alive. As you read it, it’s just like you’re reading a novel.”

Crabill, along with many other Dust Bowl survivors, sent their personal experiences to Burns’ staff via the Internet. The staff then conducted hundreds of interviews to narrow the candidates down to 25 for the film.

“One of the principal people in Burns’ group interviewed me,” Crabill says. “Then they started to work on the footage, and they let me know I’d be in it at some places. I’m probably in the film three or four times.”

Among Burns’ other documentary films are “The Civil War” (1990), “Baseball” (1994), “Jazz” (2001), “The War” (2007), “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” (2009) and “Prohibition” (2011).

Dayton Duncan, a partner of Burns, also will publish a book to accompany “The Dust Bowl” film. It will be composed of snippets from interviews that were not used in the documentary.

The two-hour documentary is set to air at 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday, Nov. 18-19, on PBS (KVIE Channel 6), and will be repeated those nights at 10 p.m.

Crabill is a retired Davis High School math teacher and trained math teachers at UC Davis. He has lived in the area on four different occasions since 1960.

Being part of Burns’ project has allowed the longtime resident and the other contributors to the documentary to travel. They were featured at a publicity event in Los Angeles in July, and took a trip to Washington, D.C., several weeks ago.

Crabill had the opportunity to meet with Burns, Egan and Duncan as he made the appearances.

But the allure of touring wasn’t his primary reason for getting involved in the film, Crabill says. He did it to honor a struggling cattle farmer who lost everything when disaster struck.

“Basically, the reason I’ve done this is for my father,” Crabill says. “He went through some hard times.”

— Reach Brett Johnson at bjohnson@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8052.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

News

A springtime ritual

By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Tom Adams seeks Davis school board seat

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1

 
Hub of activity: DHS newspaper keeps evolving

By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Holy fire ceremony draws thousands in Jerusalem

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Tour renovated YCCC facility Thursday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Tour Davis Waldorf School on Wednesday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

The fifth annual Tour de Cluck is soon to be hatched

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Ortiz lawn signs available

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Sign up soon for spring cooking classes

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Robb Davis team to rally on Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Steadfast in their support

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A4, 7 Comments | Gallery

 
Yolo Hospice offers free grief workshops

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Sign up for Camp Kesem caterpillar crawl

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Quilters gear up for annual show

By Sebastian Onate | From Page: A4

KDVS launches fund drive on Monday

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A5

 
Calling all Scrabble fans

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5, 1 Comment | Gallery

League hosts a series of candidate forums

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Hub webpage is seeing traffic increasing

By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A8

Preschool open house set at Davis Waldorf

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

 
Birch Lane celebrates its 50th anniversary

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

Hotel/conference center info meeting set

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

 
Lescroart welcomes all to book-launch party

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A16 | Gallery

DEVO set to serve up 14th annual Winkler Dinner

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16 | Gallery

 
Learn Chinese crafts at I-House

By Sebastian Onate | From Page: A16

.

Forum

Take ownership of your health

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

 
Not thrilled with lack of symmetry

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

Reliving the agony and ecstasy of spring

By Marion Franck | From Page: A7

 
Keep your baby safe

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
Core values on campus

By Our View | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

Road diet? No, city diet!

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12, 5 Comments

 
We’re reveling in our equality

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

Vote no; it’s fiscally responsible

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12, 2 Comments

 
Rick McKee cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A12

 
Bill is an affront to UC Davis ag biotech and local farmers

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13, 1 Comment

Don’t want to sit in Fix 50 traffic? Consider alternatives

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13, 1 Comment

 
.

Sports

Devils burn up the track

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
UCD softball shut out by Santa Barbara

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Aggie men shoot 9-under, lead own tourney

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Stars shine in Woody Wilson Classic

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
UCD roundup: Aggie baseball swept away by Highlanders

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

A’s score 3 in ninth, rally past Astros 4-3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

Yolo Federal Credit Union gets WISH funds

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
PG&E pays taxes, fees to county, cities

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9, 1 Comment

Will Davis get an Old Soul?

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A9

 
Pediatricians, nurse practitioner hired at Woodland Healthcare

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Asian stocks mostly higher after mixed U.S. earnings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Davis Roots will showcase its graduating startups

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A14

University Honda wins another President’s Award

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A14 | Gallery

 
Dutch Bros. raises $19,000 for girl with leukemia

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A14 | Gallery

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, April 20, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B8