In 1933 the Great Depression and Dust Bowl brought devastation to thousands of people. For thirteen-year-old Sammy Larkin, it made him an orphan. Refusing to allow the state to take his seven-year-old sister, Birdie and himself from their farm, he decides to do the impossible—live as if his parents were still alive.
Learning to lie and steal, he embarks on an eye-opening fight for survival in the Oklahoma panhandle, finding help in the most unexpected places. The fear of failure overshadows his every decision. Along with a mangy stray dog and new-found friends, he struggles to adapt to the world of adults, discovering the ugly side of life, all the while questioning why his parents left them.
Battling constant dust storms, known as black blizzards, a menacing drifter, and hunger, he fights to get through each day, hoping for a miracle. When circumstances dictate a change in his plans, he has to make a life altering decision.
Winner of the B.R.A.G. Medallion
Outside the wind roared, tore at the cellar door, moaned through cracks, bringing with it a cloud of dust. Sammy and Birdie turned toward the wall and buried their heads within their arms. On and on, the roaring wind shrieked. The temperature dropped by almost forty degrees. Each new gust slammed the door against the frame. It blocked out the sun and turned day into night. The faint light from the lantern flickered. After what seemed like hours, the short dust storm finally passed them over and kept heading east. One minute the roaring filled the tiny room; the next, a blanket of dead quiet descended.
“Is it over?” Birdie asked
“I think so. We need to sit and wait a while, jus’ in case it comes back.” Sammy unrolled himself and leaned back against the wall, his heart pounding. The storm seemed a lot worse now that his ma and pa weren’t there to comfort them. Usually they made a game of hiding in the cellar waiting for a storm to pass. It wasn’t fun anymore.
He crept up the steps and listened for the wind. He could hear the blowing dirt whisking against the door and house. It seeped through the cracks, rained on his face and in his eyes. He wiped at the dirt on his face and listened again for the wind. It seemed quiet beyond the door. Sammy pulled the latch back and slowly raised the cellar door a few inches, looking and listening for the hateful storm. With the exception of a few minor gusts, the storm had passed.
He turned back down the steps and said to his sister, “Come on, let’s git out of here.”
Birdie jumped to her feet, blew out the lantern, and scooted up the stone steps, eager to leave the dank, dark cellar. By the time she reached the top step, Sammy had thrown the door all the way back.
A haze of dusty sky covered the sun. The day seemed confused as to whether it should be early morning or dusk. With a dark yellow-brown hue blanketing the lonely landscape, it was hard to tell.
“I didn’t like that, Sammy. It ain’t like when Momma and Daddy was with us down in there,” Birdie said when she climbed out of the cellar. She stood on the cellar door, hugging herself against the chill, while Sammy secured the latch.
“I know. Ain’t nothin’ fun no more. Next time maybe we can ride it out in the house, ‘stead of the cellar. If’n it’s a big‘n we still go to the cellar. The little ones . . . I ain’t goin’ down there.” Sammy struggled with the rusted latch, finally giving up after pinching his hand. He kicked it shut. “Oh, snake boogers. That there door done up an’ bit me.” He squeezed the side of his hand, holding back the blood.
“Mamma don’t like ya to be sayin’ that,” chided Birdie.
“Ain’t nobody gonna be around to say nothin’ ‘bout it.” He stomped around the corner out of her sight.
Birdie hurried to fall in step with her brother as they made their way back to the house, stopping first at the pump for some cool, refreshing water. Breathing in all the dust that had crept into the cellar had parched their throats. Ma woulda remembered to bring water to the cellar, Sammy thought. And Pa woulda got them down ‘for the winds got too strong.
“Don’t make no difference. Gotta do it my own way now,” he mumbled. “I gotta think smarter and faster, too. If’n I don’t, me and Birdie gonna git hurt or maybe even kilt.
“Who’s gonna get kilt, Sammy?” Birdie asked, catching up with him.
“I ain’t talkin’ to ya. Mind yer own business,” he said.
“Who ya talkin’ to? Ain’t nobody ‘round cept us”. Birdie grabbed his sleeve. “Who ya talkin’ to, huh?”
Sammy stopped walking and turned to his sister. “I’m talkin’ to myself, okay? I gotta make some sense of all this and there ain’t nobody to be talkin’ to that knows nothin’. We gotta make plans.”
“Plans on how we keep a-goin’. Gittin’ food and stuff.”
“I’m hungry,” Birdie whined.
“Me too,” Sammy agreed, knowing there wasn’t much left in the house. He had to find a way to bring some food in.
“I want one of Momma’s roast chickens with mashed tatters and corn ona cob. Wouldn’ that be good?” Birdie licked her lips, savoring the memory of what used to be on the table.
“Yeah, if’n we had us a chicken or tatters or corn. We ain’t got nothin’ ‘cept some bread ‘n that there can stuff. I gotta git us some food.”
http://www.amazon.com/DIRT-ebook/dp/B008NXEIKO/ Available in paperback and kindle
About Sharon Dwyer:
What can I say. I dream. I write. I dream some more. I love books with a good story that keeps me up way past my bedtime.
Seriously, well I was serious but, I’ve worked in several professions – nursing, engineering, finance and technology. I love a challenge, so when I felt bored with an occupation, I went back to school for a new one. Along the way I discovered I loved to write and once again changed profession.
As my website says, “Books are the gateway to adventure”. Reading is more than just an enjoyable story, so many books out there have tidbits of information weaved into the story, we learn something everytime we pick one up. At least I do.