Many other books I’ve read authentically reflect what dust bowl people had to endure to survive and maintain “hope.” Ron Hughart’s book is more of an autobiography where he shares many similar stories, but at a later date – one or two generations removed.

It amazes me that someone the age of my own children experienced the “Grapes of Wrath” way of life – just trying to survive by constantly moving on from one migrant camp to the next. Hoping, looking for work of any kind just to stay alive. Ron’s book emphasizes the importance of “the place” in their memories or their hope.
“The Place” represented land (usually 40 acres) to plant seed, a home, a barn, a pond with fish, animals, etc.

Most remembered “the place” (even as share croppers) or looked forward to it in the future – it kept them going! Philosophically, basic needs were met differently than many of us have experienced: Survival, almost a full-time job under very trying circumstances; New experience, hoping for a new and better life and future; recognition – through all the suffering, a constant showing of respect and politeness to each other with a willingness to help their neighbors; Intimate Response – the need for close relationships within the family and without.
In The Place Beyond the Dust Bowl, Ron Hughart proves to be a good story teller. When I started the book, I found it hard to put down. It moves smoothly and beautifully through experiences which gradually validate him as to who he really is: The Place beyond the dust bowl – a person who was diagnosed as “retarded” in the second grade, but used his own life process to become a person able to write a book! Many people helped to nurture Ron. His parents: Dad – who worked hard, looked for work or worried about finding work. a full-time job, but able to keep the family together; Mom – kept the family going – feeding, cleaning (many times under horrible conditions), counselor and friend; Both – living and teaching lasting family and life values. Mr. Light – teacher at Panoche School with a total population of 20 students – four of them Hughart’s. Ron writes, “…I liked .. Mr. Light … because he praised me… ” Irvy – the hermit prospector and philosopher – who taught Ron… “It’s important to know that each day is special and if you worry too much, time will pass quickly, but if you enjoy today, time will seem to pass more slowly. If you slow down and allow yourself to be who you are, your thoughts will be more interesting and special. In turn, you’ll become more special and interesting to others around you. Ronnie, a better life is yours for the taking.” Jim and Darrell – the cowboys in Ron’s life who taught him so much – not just out on the range, but dealing with life experiences and how to use them in building a sense of self-worth and confidence.
Several personal quotations from Ron’s book reflect the process of “working through” his transition from being diagnosed “retarded” to finding the “place” in which he finds himself now – free to be himself and continue his growth as an authentic person:
“… This move would prove to be the beginning of my life’s struggles with success and defeat. I was embarking on a journey of rights and wrongs and a catalogue of mistakes that would mold me into the person I am today … Living with the excitement of hope and feeling the very real pain of hopelessness, I began a trek of where the realization of assimilation and life’s lessons started for me. I withdrew from those around me and lived within my own thoughts.” “I decided right then I was going to take Irvy’s advise, listen to everyone, and use only the parts I thought most helpful to me in becoming successful.” “I continue to exist, only able to fantasize of a place where everyone could be happy and proud.”
Even though the details are different, I find it easy to identify. It is a highly personalized story. Since “that which is most personal is most common,” it is no wonder that it is easy to identify with this story. This is a “good read,” and, as a retired educator, I would recommend it as a “must read” for Jr. High and High School students as well as adults.”