“Homesteaders, Poor and Dry”
a Moving Rural Verse Poem-Film

Homesteaders, Poor and Dry: In a time of drought, a small girl finds that courage can be drawn like water from a well. The origin of this poem, Homesteaders, Poor and Dry, was a story a friend’s grandmother told of when she was a girl in Texas during a time of drought and grinding poverty. Though an old story, the story of drought and resulting hardship is a recurring theme in the rural West. Poem by Linda Hussa. Film by Chris Simon and Jerry Dugan. 

About the poem:

The world was bone dry…
The field was bare as the floor
And the springs nothin' --- nothin'.

The origin of this poem was a story a friend’s grandmother told of when she was a girl in Texas during a time of drought and grinding poverty. It is an incredibly powerful poem about the hard, emotional impact of drought on a family, told from the perspective of the young daughter.

 About the Artists

Linda Hussa  and her husband John live on their ranch in Surprise Valley, California, where they raise cattle, churro sheep, horses and hay. She writes poetry and nonfiction. Linda has received three national awards: the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum's Wrangler Award, the Spur Award from Western Writers of America, and the Willa Cather Award from Women Writing the West. She also received the 1999 Nevada Writers' Silver Pen.  Photo by Kevin Martini Fuller

Linda Hussa and her husband John live on their ranch in Surprise Valley, California, where they raise cattle, churro sheep, horses and hay. She writes poetry and nonfiction. Linda has received three national awards: the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum's Wrangler Award, the Spur Award from Western Writers of America, and the Willa Cather Award from Women Writing the West. She also received the 1999 Nevada Writers' Silver Pen. Photo by Kevin Martini Fuller

Chris Simon 's prize-winning films have been shown throughout the world, including several shown at the  National Cowboy Poetry Gathering . Her films often celebrate aspects of traditional culture and music. Chris' most recent film,  This Ain't No Mouse Music! , featuring Cajun music, bluegrass, blues and more, is on iTunes and Amazon. She is currently working on a film about musician Mike Beck, who is well known to folks at the Gathering.  Photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller

Chris Simon's prize-winning films have been shown throughout the world, including several shown at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Her films often celebrate aspects of traditional culture and music. Chris' most recent film, This Ain't No Mouse Music!, featuring Cajun music, bluegrass, blues and more, is on iTunes and Amazon. She is currently working on a film about musician Mike Beck, who is well known to folks at the Gathering. Photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller

Jerry Dugan  is best known as a pioneer in filmmaking in the Action Sports world. He recently directed his first feature film with action legend Dolph Lundgren. In 2009, the Nevada Museum of Art asked Jerry to create and direct a short film based on Buck Ramsey's poem "Anthem" (the Prologue to "Grass") for installation in  Between Grass and Sky , an exhibition and two-part collaboration with the Western Folklife Center. The video received multiple awards.

Jerry Dugan is best known as a pioneer in filmmaking in the Action Sports world. He recently directed his first feature film with action legend Dolph Lundgren. In 2009, the Nevada Museum of Art asked Jerry to create and direct a short film based on Buck Ramsey's poem "Anthem" (the Prologue to "Grass") for installation in Between Grass and Sky, an exhibition and two-part collaboration with the Western Folklife Center. The video received multiple awards.

Poet, Linda Hussa, on making the film:

"Seeing the poem written decades ago come alive in this film is a 7-minute miracle. I guess it’s proof of “all things in their own good time. So many wonderful memories from that day (of filming). John (husband) and I talk them over endlessly when Blossom (the cow) comes for a scratch, or the wind takes the swing away and back, or we chat about the amazing 9-year-old actress Rylee Dickson and the Big Boom the fellas used to catch a wisp of sound. The filming was an experience of my lifetime.

….However, trouble is brewing here. Blossom “the victim Jersey cow in the film” is beginning to make demands: An engraved silver halter with her name on. Not “Blossom” … Her REAL name: Constance Blithe.  And she’s making life miserable for the other cows … first to water, first to hay, would a little curtsey be too much to ask? She says she knows cows who actually have agents.”

Filmmaker, Jerry Dugan, on making the film:

“Thanks again for letting me and my great crew collaborate with you talented folk on this very cool film. …. such a powerful poem and film and wonderful effort for such a great story.”

Filmmaker, Chris Simon, on making the film:

"I knew it would not be an easy film to make. I wrote out a scenario for how I’d like to interpret Linda’s poem. Getting from what was on paper to film… well, that was a challenge. I’m a documentary filmmaker. I usually film what is there, not create it. Dropping a camera down a well to show a little girl’s point of view is not in my skill set so I decided to collaborate with Reno filmmaker Jerry Dugan. As a commercial and extreme sports filmmaker, Jerry could bring the technical skills needed plus fresh creative perspective. We arranged to film at the Hussa Ranch at the northeastern tip of California. Linda and her husband John started combing the country looking for a hand-dug well."

The takeaway:

“As I watch the last shot – a slow zoom in on the young actress’s face - tears come to my eyes. This collaboration has been even better than I could have imagined. Each person - Gerry, his crew, Linda, her husband John, the actors - has added their own unique vision and together we have created a beautiful interpretation of Linda’s words.” - Chris Simon

Read Chris Simon's blog post describing the making of the film, the crew, and the actors involved. https://www.westernfolklife.org/blog/2017/1/6/the-making-of-homesteaders-poor-and-dry

Additional resources:

The Homestead Act of 1862: www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/homestead.html

Drought in the 1930s: https://livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/water_01.html 

Dryland farming defined: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dryland_farming

Moving Rural Verse was also funded by Jeff Tant and Briana Tiberti.