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No Man’s Land Museum Archive tells the Duster history in amazing storm pictures

GOODWELL, OKLAHOMA -- The photographer's name is lost to Dust Bowl history but whoever it was saw the storm building in Elkhart, Kansas on May 21, 1937.

The time-lapse only covers a few minutes.

The rolling clouds grow higher like a giant wave, but this is dust, prairie topsoil plowed up, dried up, and picked up by the wind.

Its crest swallowed daylight.

"To look at those pictures doesn't do it justice," says Oklahoma Panhandle historian Sue Weissinger. "I don't think, from talking to everybody, that we can possibly imagine what it was like."

As both custodian and curator a the Panhandle Museum in Goodwell, Weissinger deals with modern dust and the dust storms that terrorized the Panhandle region for more than a decade.

Part of an exhibit at the No Man's Land Museum chronicles that time with an extensive collection of photographs, many taken as the dust storms were rolling in.

"On Black Sunday," says Weissinger of the April 14, 1935 duster, "they talked in terms of terror and the end of the world."

This small homestead is a replica of the Timmons family home in Goodwell.

An old photo in the collection shows the same home about to be engulfed in a wave of dust.

"A week later their ceiling collapsed," says Weissinger of the accumulated dust on the roof.

Weissinger still hears the stories from time to time, passed down from parents and grandparents, some even from people who remember themselves.

She recalls, "Probably the most poignant ones that I've run across are people that lost sisters and brothers, or even a mother. Quite a few died from the dust."

The pictures come from different collections, some from photographers like R.C. McLean who were sent by the federal government to chronicle one of the largest ecological disasters in history.

The old hearse at the center of the exhibit sits as a reminder to the Duster's toll in lives.

Sue Weissinger works to preserved one kind of dust while keeping the dust of history at bay.

For more information on the No Man's Land Museum in Goodwell go to http://www.nmlhs.org