They started putting in shelterbelts around here around the time of the war, if I remember that right. It was after all the drought — we had years of it, even more than just the dust bowl years that got all the attention. It had been dry so long the soil would just blow away if you turned it. My dad would see a dust cloud blowing off one of the neighbors’ fields and he’d say, “There’s what’s left of Ed’s money, just blowing away.”
My dad put in one of the first shelterbelts around here. A line of ash, a mile long, north to south, along the west side of our land, where it’s most level there. Course it wasn’t long after that he bought up the neighbor’s section when he moved out, left for the West Coast.
It’s still there, though the trees are dying now. A lot of guys around here, they’re taking out the shelterbelts now. They get in the way when they’re putting chemicals down. The sprayers are wider now, and they don’t want to be turning them all the time. I let mine stay, especially that first one. My son, he wants to pull it up and I say, it’s going to die soon, just let it die. It held this farm together for fifty, sixty years. Leave it be. I’m sure once they’ve got the farm paid off they’ll tear them out. They’ll say, “Look, the trees are about dead now.”
What they don’t pull out, they’re dying out. They’ve got this beetle, the emerald ash borer, working this way from northern Minnesota. I little green beetle from Asia. I studied up on it and I guess it came over in wood, packing material. All that cheap stuff we like to buy from China, got your cheap tree-killer, too. This globalization, shipping things all over the world, instead of making them at home, it’s going to ruin us all. Of course it probably kept my farm in clover for a long time. We were shipping grain all over the world. But it’s coming back to haunt us now.