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To save this live stock was the U. S. Government's first concern. The Interstate Commerce Commission authorized railroads to reduce freight rates so that stock might be shipped out of the drought area, forage shipped in. The Baltimore & Ohio and the Pennsylvania immediately halved their hay rates. The Chamber of Commerce of Macon, Ga. offered to pasture several thousand head of cattle free of charge. The Federal Farm Board drew up plans whereby it would loan money for stock feed to specially organized cooperatives in drought-stricken areas. The Army ordered out all its water wagons at the Jeffersonville. Ind. quartermaster depot, to haul water for the civil population.
On the Chicago Board of Trade, corn was whirled up to above $1 per bu. in excited trading at the prospect of a crop shortage, with wheat moving up in sympathy. Within a month the drought had enhanced the market value of the U. S. grain crop $650,000,000. Secretary Hyde estimated that the corn crop would be cut by the weather some 500,000,000 bu. to a total yield of about 2,300,000,000 bu.. smallest yield since 1921. Both Secretary Hyde and Chairman Legge openly advised stockmen to feed wheat to their cattle and hogs instead of expensive corn. When corn sells at $1, wheat as fodder is worth $1.12. Wheat men began to rejoice at the prospect of reducing their surplus in this fashion. Secretary Hyde cut them short: "I don't share the feeling that this terrible drought is a blessing to agriculture, in disguise or any guise. . . . The ruin of thousands of farmers does not appeal to me as a desirable thing, no matter what economic results it may have in clearing away the accumulated surpluses."
Desperately scanning weather maps for signs of a general rain was Dr. Joseph Burton Kincer, chief of agricultural meteorology, at the U. S. Weather Bureau. He explained that east of the Rocky Mountains the drought had been in progress from three to nine months, that spring rainfalls had been 50% below normal, that July was the dryest month in recent weather history. Said he: 'I don't like calling this a catastrophe but I don't like to think what may happen if the drought isn't broken in the next two weeks. The outlook isn't promising/'
In many localities aridity produced freak results:
¶Moonshiners in Pennsylvania and Kentucky had to shut down their stills for lack of water to cool condensers.
¶The water supply was partially shut off at the West Orange, N. J., laboratories of Thomas Alva Edison.
¶Army engineers made great progress with flood works as the Mississippi fell to its lowest level in 70 years.
¶Kentucky blue grass turned, yellow & white.
¶New York City milk prices rose 1¢ per quart; fresh vegetables went up 10%.
¶The U. S. Bureau of Fisheries went early to the rescue of fish (see p. 32).
¶Gettysburg, Pa. officially prohibited Monday wash day.
¶Corn popped in the fields of Texas. Apples were partially baked on the trees in Kansas and Pennsylvania.
¶Two hundred Ohio farmers whose crops had failed marched upon the Wilmington court house, received work on the roads.