Everything You've Got Is Gone: Texas Farmers

As a biting Texas panhandle wind flung dirt into their weather-creased faces, some 50 solemn cotton farmers met near the town of Tulia (pop. 5,033) last week for a ritual as sorrowful as a wake. They were there to cast reluctant bids on the well-worn tools and machinery with which Dan Altman, 65, and his son Danny, 34, had scratched out an increasingly difficult living in a way they loved: farming 1,440 acres of irrigated land. The buyers were ambivalent. They were seeking bargains, but they hated to see the Altmansget hurt. And each feared that his own auction might be...

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