12/15/05 - grasshopper plague

In today's excerpt - German immigrants arrive in Kansas in the 1870s and find a grasshopper plague:

"They arrived in the midst of a drought and one of the worst grasshopper plagues in Kansas history: '... They devoured every green thing but the prairie grass,' one American-born homesteader remembered. 'Water troughs and loosely covered wells were foul with drowned 'hoppers,' another man recalled.

"Neighbors passing spoke of strange happenings. A young wife awaiting her first baby, in the absence of her husband ... had gone insane from fright, all alone in that sun-baked shanty on the bald prairie. Eggs and milk tasted of the 'hoppers, and cows were drying up, somebody said ... A train had stalled on the curve coming out of Leavenworth on the narrow-guage because the crushed grasshoppers greased the track so that the wheels couldn't take hold. Some of the farmers here and there began plowing their denuded corn lands for wheat, turning up the 'hopper eggs to the sun in hope of destroying the pests as they hatched. Others said it was a wasted effort. If winter didn't kill them off,  it was all up with the people, there'd never be another harvest in Kansas."


Geoffrey C. Ward


The West: An Illustrated History


Little, Brown, and Company


Copyright 1996 The West Book Project, Inc.


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