To the Reverend John Wesley.
Dear revered Brother and namesake,
You have asked--almost as an aside--a very intimate question about me and my origins. My answer may be all too personal, too rambling. Although the Dustbowl is a topic seldom treated with detachment, one can find some objective accounts of Dustbowl life and culture, even of the Dustbowl mind, which may absolve me from dwelling on externals. The Dustbowl even produces its poet, with whom I "identify" much as does the Scotsman with his Rantin' Rab, for I, too, am a Dustbowl Refugee. It is my feeling that all Americans are, and that our dusty origins determine our understanding of the classics just as Cicero's Roman vantage determined his understanding and exploitation of Greek culture.
You surely remember the great, endless forests of America from your visit here. You look up into trees where the first branch is forty foot off the ground, and you think, such were the glories in the Garden of Eden, where now stretch, in our latter day, shifting sands of the Arabian deserts. Nor was it to man alone that the good Lord promised, "Dust thou wast, and to dust shalt thou return," for dust is the fate of all living things and of all living communities. When looking down perhaps from an airplane over middle America I surveyed our ravished continent, and saw those great forests gnawed back as if by giant termites, I knew man was surely created as agent of progress.
But this is not what I want to talk about. I am eager for you to know about the Dust Bowl, not for its own sake or for its historical importance, but rather as symbol for the progress of the American mind. For that formidable project, permit me to draw forth another sheet of paper.
Your most devoted,
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