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arrow Stories and Tales of the Coast & Geodetic Survey
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Check out the NOAA Photo Library's Historic C&GS Album for pictures of early surveying work and typical camplife during the 1930's.

banner - piffle and jottings from the dessicated west during 1934

by George E. Marsh

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picture of george marsh

George E. Marsh (himself)

Rock Springs Observations

At the Survey station near Rock Springs, Montana, (one house functions as home, store and post office) I was visited by Mr. Yates, a ranchman, who lives less than a mile distant and who asked me to dinner. I accepted pronto, you bet. That’s Spanish for alacrity. He came out here twenty-one years ago from Little Falls, N.Y., where Crosbys and Sibleys still reside. And Mrs. Yates has an aunt named Marsh, which was more interesting, but as she was short on Mr. Marsh’s antecedents, I could not determine any relationship.

He has 1,500 sheep, no mortgage, 70 tons of hay from two years ago and money in the bank, quite a phenomenon for these times.

grasshopperWhile we attended to the pleasure of eating, a violent but short-lived windstorm came over the hill and filled the air with dust until you could not see across the yard and the three of us rushed to close the windows. On looking toward the station where I was camped, I saw a truck and explained that I would have to leave at once, thinking that instructions from the office had arrived. Mr. Yates brought me back in his Ford and as we neared the truck, I saw that my tent was down. Inspection showed that some of the guy ropes had broken; the cot and its load of clothes were upside down, my ten-gallon milk can, that had been half full, was overturned and the water gone but nothing was wet in the slightest, and the lid was off the carton in which I had the thirty-two eggs that Ari, the horned toad from Texas, had laid a few days previously, and the contents dispersed over the county.

Daily, the truck-driver, who came to move me on the morrow, helped to reestablish camp. A large piece of canvas was found in the ravine on the other side of the hill and there was nothing missing save Ari’s potential youngsters and a piece of burlap in which the tent pins had been wrapped.

Grasshoppers? Hell, yes and then some. Everywhere in this desiccated country from Texas to Montana. And so thick in some sections. And lots of varieties. Sometimes when the truck is going at a good speed they will come into the cab en masse and their rough chitinous bodies will deliver stinging smacks on one’s face and bring anathemas damning the whole tribe of Orthoptera. The abundance of these varmints makes feeding my lizard pensioners an easy matter.

When I was in South Dakota, a farmer said the hoppers had peeled the fence posts, they were just that bad. I thought it an exaggeration. I have since been told that it is as true as gospel. When food is scarce, they will strip off the outer layers in order to get down to the less weathered wood!

picture of a field devasted by grasshoppers
The remains of a cornfield after grasshoppers had completed the
destruction begun by drought. 90% of crops surviving the drought
were destroyed by grasshoppers in an 11,000 square mile area. In: "The Drought of 1931-1932 in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Washington," The American Red Cross, 1932.

A man in Miles City told me that Jordan, Montana, is the most inland place in the whole country. I asked, “What do you mean by inland?” “Farthest from a railroad. Jordan is 95 miles,” he replied.

Later another informant said that Rock Springs, Wyo., claims the distinction and honor (if honor there be.) It is 125 miles off the R.R.

In the Rock Springs P.O. I saw a tiger cat sans ears and sans tail. The feline got them frozen and that was the end of them. There was also a large hound dog for whom the cat had only animosity and indoors completely dominated him. If he lay down, the cat made him get up, and if he were outdoors, he could only enter by stealth.

The dog in turn endeavored to tree the cat whenever it came outdoors.

Oh, yes, and this is good; the cat dearly loves to be the third party in a dog-fight and it will go running up or down the road in order to mix in the fracas. Wonder what the dogs think about it?

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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