“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:
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."
“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
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.