BONE DRY

ACROSS GREAT SWATHS OF THE LOWER PLAINS AND SOUTHWEST, A WITHERING DROUGHT IS SLOWLY, STEADILY ERODING HOPES AND WAYS OF LIFE

Most natural disasters strike hard and fast. Tornado, hurricane, earthquake, flash fire and flood all do the worst of their worst in violent bursts and spasms. Droughts are different. They have no discernible beginning; no one wakes up of a morning, looks out a window and says, "Uh-oh, here comes a long dry spell." Droughts seem deceptively serene, no more threatening than an endless expanse of blue, cloudless sky. They unfold in slow motion, a tempo ill suited to daily headlines and TV-news reports. Covering one is like sitting around watching the grass not grow. In The Grapes of Wrath, his...

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