The good old days…

I’m currently reading “The Worst Hard Time” by Thomas Egan, which is about the American Dust Bowl during the Depression. A good read, I especially liked this intro to the second chapter:

Hope died the first time people laid eyes on Boise City, Idaho. It was founded on fraud. Even the name itself was a lie. Boy-City, the promoter pronounced it, from the French words le bois – trees. Except that there was not a single tree in Boise City. Nor was there a city. But that didn’t stop the Southwestern Immigration and Development Company from selling lots, at forty-five dollars apiece, in a phantom town in the newly opened Panhandle of Oklahoma. The company sent fliers all over the country, showing a town as ripe as a peach two days into its blush. The brochures sketched a Boise City with elegantly aged trees lining the streets, a tower of cold, clean water gushing from an artesian well in the center of town, and houses any banker would be proud to call home. Three railroads were building lines to Boise City, the company said, and a fourth was on they way. You could grow cotton, corn, or wheat on rich land just outside the city limits. Hurry – sites are going fast. A fiction, all of it. But the story helped them sell three thousand town lots in 1908, one year after Oklahoma became the forty-sixth state.

When the lucky buyers showed up to see their share of the shining new city on the designated opening day, they were shocked. Women came in full-length white dresses and men in polished boots. If anyone from the development company had been around, the life would have been choked out of them by the best-dressed mob on the plains. On Boise City’s imaginary streets, the buyers found stakes in the ground and flags flapping in the wind. No railroads. No tracks. No plans for railroads. No fine houses. No businesses. The artesian well was a stockman’s crude tank next to a windmill, full of flies. Worst of all, the company did not even own the land it had sold.


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