This Machine scrapes the bowl. In this issue, meet Sanora Babb. She was a novelist, a poet, an Oklahoman born on the high plains on the cusp of our statehood. She went to jail with striking workers; she took Ralph Ellison as her lover.
Long before Henry Fonda heard the name Tom Joad, Babb, pen in hand, rode the wave of dust that pushed panhandle farmers to citrus orchards and workers’ camps on the coast. She looked into the face of sickness and starvation, her people reduced to refugees. What she didn’t see: Steinbeck flipping through her field notes. How the race to the Great American Dust Bowl Novel was lost. Plus, the Oklahomans Steinbeck never knew, by Sanora Babb; on the road with The Sea of Cortez, Grapes, and Travels with Charley; and a visit to Hugo’s circus sanctuary.
WHOSE NAME IS UNKNOWN: John Steinbeck, by a nose. The story of the Oklahoma novelist who lost the race to the Great American Dust Bowl novel. By Cortney Stone.
SHADOWED STREETS: The Ark is in Hugo, and it’s home to the second-largest herd of Asian elephants in North America. By Richard Higgs.
LANDFALL: “A mysterious, footless silence.” Sanora Babb chronicles the calm before an Oklahoma dust storm.
CAR SONG: Steinbeck rides shotgun on a cross-country road trip in a new century. By Brian Ted Jones.
ORIGINAL OKIE: Vicki Roberts is proprietress of Black Mesa Bed & Breakfast, a 1910 native rock ranch house on a working cattle ranch near the base of Oklahoma’s highest point.