"Drought Area: Two Men in Front of a Store" photographed by Margaret Bourke -White

It was a time of dust.  Not “dust thou art to dust returneth” but whole lives lived in restless, ever advancing dirt. Each day was drier than the one before and the color green retreated from the land as far as he could see. His challenge was to find enough to eat and somewhere to sleep without asthma overcoming him in the night.

Desire had to be put aside, forgotten for this single decade that was his youth and when the rains finally came he found himself a soldier and dead on a jungle island in the South Pacific. His body lost, forgotten by the advancing troops amid the encroaching greenery of a foreign climate. His flesh rinsed from his bones by rains that fell and fell and fell without discrimination.

But here in this parched land where work is scarce and a clear, deep well a reasonable ambition this man relied upon a single luxury to invigorate his day-to-day survival, keeping his shirt white and dry and ironed to perfection. 

In another time, living some other man’s spate of days, in a land of running streams he might have learned to tango, taken a lover to his bed, or gone swimming after dark but in these days of dehydration questions of gender, sexuality and race were irrelevant to the pressing issue of where to find a pan of warm suds and a bottle of bleach. 


Drought Area: Two Men in Front of a Store” photographed by Margaret Bourke-White in 1934

from the Syracuse University Library, New York, NY, USA