By A.W. Erickson
Summary: With tooth decay ravaging virtually every town and city in mid-twentieth-century America, the inhabitants of one region remained famously free of cavities. The oral health of Deaf Smith County, Texas, was so legendary, in fact, that rumor had it one could grow a new set of teeth just by moving there. Of course this was just fancy, but it bespoke Deaf Smith’s reputation as a place “where the best man develops,” with residents boasting not just superior dental health but overall health as well. In this captivating booklet, crop reporter A.W. Erickson reveals Deaf Smith’s secret to be the food grown on its extraordinarily mineral-rich soil and water. Erickson, detailing how unique climatic and geographical factors result in the continual deposition of myriad minerals across Deaf Smith’s farmland, affirms one of the great discoveries in early nutrition research and the reason why organic farming is so important today: human health is only as good as the land we grow our food in. Published by Field Notes Crop Reporting Service, 1945. (For a comprehensive look at the connection between human health and soil health, see Empty Harvest by Bernard Jensen and Mark R. Anderson.)[The following is a transcription of the original Archives document. To view or download the original document, click here.]
Deaf Smith’s Secret: An Explanation of the Deaf Smith Country
In June 1942 I excavated a block of wheat roots near Hereford, Texas, county seat of Deaf Smith County. Many years before this, Dr. G.W. Heard, a local dentist, had published articles in the National Dental Association’s Journal stating that there was much less tooth trouble in the Hereford vicinity than any other part of the country.
When pictures taken showing the block of wheat roots were published in some papers, national magazine writers became interested, and several stories about Deaf Smith and Hereford, the “town without a toothache,” appeared in Collier’s, the Reader’s Digest, and the Saturday Evening Post.[Photo of dentist exhibiting a patient’s teeth, with caption:] Dr. G.W. Heard and Mr. John W. Jacobsen: 71 years old and not a cavity.
As a crop reporter, I travel over a large territory extending from Columbus, Ohio, to Denver, Colorado, from Edmonton and Prince Albert, Canada, to Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas, and west to Portales, New Mexico. Frequently, I am asked if I have ever seen the “Deaf Smith country.” The answer being in the affirmative, I am plied with a number of questions. Some of these questions indicate that some erroneous conclusions, not fair to the region, have been formed.
It takes some time to give what I believe are the proper answers to these questions. Also, the spoken word is often partly forgotten and later, when repeated, sometimes misconstrued.
This booklet is written partly to save time in answering the questions about Deaf Smith County and partly to present the facts, as I see them, in printed form, where they can be studied by those who are interested. They are based on my observations as I travel over the great North American Bread Belt.
Who Was Deaf Smith?
Erastus Smith (known as Deaf Smith because he was hard of hearing) was the son of Chilish and Mary Smith and was born in the state of New York on April 19th, 1787. At the age of eleven years, he emigrated with his parents to the Mississippi Territory and settled near Natchez. His parents were exemplary members of the Baptist church and gave him such moral and intellectual training as the circumstances by which they were surrounded would permit. He first came to Texas in 1817, perhaps with some of the patriot forces that were constantly arriving in the province at that time. (Texas was then a province of Mexico and under Spanish dominion until 1819.) He went back to Mississippi but only for a short time. In 1831, he again came to Texas to make it his home. He died on November 30th, 1837, at Fort Bend, Texas.
Deaf Smith’s coolness in danger and battle was unsurpassed. He was a “dead shot,” and the loss of hearing apparently sharpened his eyesight. He was a noted scout and a warm personal friend of General Sam Houston. His ability to follow a dim trail in prairie grass was so exceptional that anecdotes quote his superior officers as saying, “As long as the sun is shining, Deaf Smith is as good as a bloodhound.” He fought in the battle of San Jacinto; on orders of General Houston, he cut down Vance’s bridge just before the Texans attacked the Mexicans.
He was a man of remarkable gravity and few words. He seldom answered at all except in monosyllables. He owned a fine property at Grand Gulf, Mississippi, but never attended to it. He preferred the prairies of Texas, where he spent much of his time alone.
Deaf Smith married a Mexican lady in San Antonio, by whom he had several children. A number of his descendents now live in that city. He never saw Deaf Smith County, which was named in his honor over 50 years after he died.
Position of Deaf Smith County
When the Texas panhandle was opened for settlement, the usual pattern of square counties in level prairie country took form, the settlements and organizing of counties taking place generally from the east to the west. Along the west edge of the panhandle, in the northern half when the regular thirty or thirty-six mile outline was surveyed, there remained a strip 20 miles wide, hardly enough for a county. This strip was added to the regular county area. Out of this block were formed four counties (Dallam, Hartley, Oldham, and Deaf Smith), each 50 miles long east and west and 40 miles wide north and south. Deaf Smith County is the south county of these four.
This places the north edge of Deaf Smith County 120 miles south of the Oklahoma panhandle’s south border and the west edge along the New Mexico state line. On the east it is bounded by Randall, and on the south [it is bounded] by Parmer and Castro Counties in Texas. All of the county except a small part in the northwest corner lies on top of the “Cap Rock” and is so level that nearly all of it is arable. Except the small part in the northwest corner, which drains into the Canadian watershed, the whole county slopes gently in a general way, 10 ft per mile, towards the east and drains into the Prairie Dog Town fork of the Red River of the South, the Deaf Smith County drainage entering and forming the Palo Duro canyon a few miles below Canyon, Texas.
The county contains about 1 1/4 million acres of land, more than 90 percent of which can be cultivated. The county was without a railroad until the summer of 1898, when the Santa Fe mainline from Amarillo to the southwest passed through the southeast corner of the county. Then Hereford, the county seat, was platted, and this town began its existence. It was “cattle country,” with this term’s fullest meaning, many years after the railroad was built. Not until 1919 was the first car of wheat shipped out of Hereford. A few small fields of wheat had been harvested before this in the southeast part of the county, but Hereford’s wheat shipments date from 1919.
In considering Deaf Smith County’s position, it is necessary to appraise the value of its altitude as well as latitude and longitude. The county lies on top of the ridge formed by the erosions of the Canadian River to the north and the drainage of the Prairie Dog Town fork of the Red River of the South to the east, and a small area in the south edge drains into the Terra Blanca, a headwaters branch of the Double Mountain fork of the Brazos. On the north edge near Vega, the altitude is 4040 ft; in the southeast corner, it is about 3750 ft. On the west edge, it ranges from 4300 ft along the south side to 4800 ft on top of the Cap Rock southeast of San Jon, New Mexico. Hereford shows an altitude of 3860 ft. The whole county will average just a little above 4000 ft, a very important factor in understanding the county’s favorable position from the health standpoint. It is a high and usually dry climate, which, due to the altitude, does not promote as rapid evaporation of the natural rainfall as is the case in lower altitudes. This, in turn, gives the annual rainfall a greater value than it would have at 1500 or 2000 ft in this latitude. It is necessary to keep this in mind because I believe this is part of Deaf Smith’s secret of good teeth, good health, and a high percentage of acceptance by the Army.
The longtime annual rainfall at Hereford is 20 in., and this annual application runs quite uniform over the whole county but varies greatly from year to year. The extremes are far apart, ranging from 9 in. to 39 in. for the twelve-month period. Both of these extremes were destructive to cultivated crops, the 9-inch rainfall in a year developing a drought that bordered on a total failure of all crops, and the 39 in. of precipitation developed rust in wheat, excessive moisture at harvest time, and in a general way produced a small crop of poor quality. Usually, the best wheat crops are produced the year following the extreme rainfall.
As a rule climate makes soil. Climate, which is composed largely of changes from sunshine to no sun, from precipitation to evaporation, from freezing to thawing, from calms to high-velocity air movements, grinds the rocks until vegetation can obtain a foothold. The airborne particles known as dust and the precipitation known as rain develop the surface topography of our land and also determine what the soil contains. They also determine what our food plants extract from the soil, how much and how many of these elements are found in the soil, and whether man eating the food and drinking the water out of that soil will fare well or badly, physically and mentally.[Photos of indiscernible images, with captions:] Top: 1200 gallons per minute. R.E.A. electric current furnishes power for motor. Bottom: Irrigating potatoes from a well.
When we view the Deaf Smith country’s topography in relation to the surrounding terrain with some knowledge of what climate can do, it is not difficult to see that we are observing an unusual area. When auger holes are drilled to depths of 6 to 8 ft in the soils; and the soils, in cuts along highways and in caliche pits (where road-building material has been excavated), are observed; and the underground water flow is lifted in the pump-irrigated areas and exposed to view, we again see that this is all different from what we find in other parts of the country. There must be a definite reason for it all. Here is a high, almost level, plateau sloping in all directions; even to the west, towards the mountains, we find a valley of a little lower altitude. All around Deaf Smith County, which lies on top of this elevation, the altitude begins to decline a little.
Had the settlers who staked their claims inside of the Deaf Smith boundary lines been soil conscious and tried to pick a 40 by 50 mile rectangle right on top of this ridge, they could not have done better. Only one small spot, the northwest corner, hangs over the edge and is broken by the erosions of the Canadian River. However, I doubt that any of the early settlers had that in mind. It was good cattle country, good grass. And in parts of the county, especially in the vicinity of where Hereford is now located, there was an abundance of water 50 to 80 feet below the surface. The prairies all looked very much the same, and there was far more land than settlers. Everybody felt the soil was very good and the rainfall very deficient. Lack of rainfall, droughts, praying for rain, and cussing the country was the order of the day. That this dry climate could be a benefit that eventually would bring the county national publicity never entered their minds, and to this day not very many of Deaf Smith County’s people realize what they have nor the remarkable formation and position of that country.
Dust the Great Benefactor
Most of the soils from 8 to 80 ft deep in Deaf Smith County are “blow soils,” just dust blown in during the past several hundred thousand years. Most of the ladies in this area agree fully with this idea, except they contend it happened during the last ten years; some of them say at least a foot of the top soil blew in during the past three to four years. It may seem that way to the ladies of the dust cloth, but the area is not what I consider very dusty. The airborne particles that have, through ages of time, formed the soils are seldom noticeable as dust, but during a period of 30 days, a film of dust will form on any smooth surface, though no dust storms have prevailed. When collected into a small heap, such dust is so filled with particles of minerals that when exposed to the “pull” of a strong magnet, they adhere to its sharp corners until it becomes wooly with pulverized metal.
Water and wind erosions have cut down the surface of the terrain all around the Deaf Smith plateau. Today, it is the highest elevation until the Rocky Mountains due west are reached.
We have all seen sweeping winds, broken up by surface obstacles, deposit airborne particles into drifts, hummocks, and ridges. Areas where airborne soils accumulate are built in the same manner but on an enormously large scale, so large men cannot easily see the boundaries of the drifts. During the span of one man’s life and within the scope of his memory, little change in elevation takes place. Slow as this process seems to be, the tonnage involved is, however, much greater than anything man attempts to move with his own effort.
Usually, the rainfall is a little higher on such plateaus than enjoyed by the surrounding country. This ties down the soil particles as they are swept up the sides of the elevation by convectional air currents, continuing the drift-building process. The region east of the Rocky Mountains for some distance is noted for its winds, and some of these winds become charged with electricity. This is commonly called “static electricity.” The cause is generally ascribed to friction of dust particles in the air. Whatever the cause, such electrically charged air currents appear to lift dust particles with lower wind velocities than takes place when “static electricity” is not present. Such “electrical dust storms” never develop except when very dry surface conditions prevail. Observing such phenomena during the last 50 years leads me to form the conclusion that in this manner nature is gradually selecting a high percentage of the desirable soil minerals from surrounding terrain and depositing them on top of the Deaf Smith drift. In this manner the soils of this region are not only carrying a higher percentage of such elements, but such elements are continually being replenished by airborne material selected from the neighboring regions.[Photos of sweet potatoes harvested in Deaf Smith County, with caption] Top: 1300 bushels of 10- to 12-inch sweet potatoes per acre. Bottom: Twelve inches long and five pounds weight. Sweet and sound.
Though there may be some selection of minerals because of magnetic electrical currents in the air, the major part of the airborne material that has built this plateau is just ordinary lime. On this lime deposit, vegetation began to develop. This, in turn, decayed and now forms part of the dark soil on top. At first this lime dust was almost white, but as time went on and more vegetable material—and finally matter of animal origin—decayed on top of it, it turned from white to a pinkish cast. At last there was so much organic matter the color turned to a chocolate brown, due partly to the airborne particles being swept up from the Permian red beds exposed by erosion, which reduced the surrounding region to their level.
These erosions, which definitely form the boundary of the Deaf Smith plateau and on the very top of which lies Deaf Smith County, have cut hundreds of feet below this lime layer. This exposes the lime stratum practically all around the plateau, but it is most pronounced northwest of and southeast of Deaf Smith County. This exposed lime formation is locally known as the “Cap Rock.” Here, then, we find the reason for the continued depositing of this airborne material from the surrounding terrain. In the spring, the prevailing winds are from the southeast. They sweep up the ledges of the “Cap Rock,” carrying lime and mineral particles with them. The velocity is somewhat reduced over the higher altitude of the plateau, causing a deposit on top of the Deaf Smith drift. In the fall, the prevailing winds are from the north and northwest, and the same thing takes place, except then the convectional air currents carry material from the “Can Rock” north of the plateau. Thus the Deaf Smith plateau, upon which, like a cap sheaf, lies Deaf Smith County, receives a double dose of lime and mineral mixed soils as the seasonal winds sweep back and forth over the lime-laden plains east of the mountains.
Usually, we consider dust of about the same weight as feathers. Enough feathers will weigh a pound, and enough dust will weigh a ton. An acre inch of dust will weigh about 80 tons. In the course of three years, the airborne soil deposits on these plains may equal a half inch, or 40 tons per acre. East of the Missouri River, where the soil’s lime content has been depleted until it is necessary to artificially replenish this element, the general custom is to apply about 3 tons of crushed limestone per acre. Ordinarily, the cost ranges from $1.75 to $2.00 per ton, or $5.25 to $6.00 per acre. This usually lasts from three to four years, when a similar application is repeated. The lime content of the airborne particles settling down on the Deaf Smith plateau ranges about 10 percent, though frequently it is much higher. If one inch (80 tons) of airborne soils from the surrounding caliche ledges of the “Cap Rock” settles down on this plateau every 6 years and carries 10 percent of lime, it is equal to 8 tons of crushed limestone applied artificially. It is perhaps better than the crushed limestone because it is in much more soluble form and is applied from month to month as plant life needs it. Rains leach it down into the soil until it concentrates at depths of from 18 to 50 inches below the surface. In other words, the first two to three feet of soil contain about as much lime as they can carry, and below this stratum of dark soil are the old original high lime deposits that accrued before much vegetation developed plus the concentration of lime leached down from the surface deposits of airborne material. This high-percentage lime base, when the moisture penetrations are deep enough, forms a reservoir of mineral plant foods and water. Over most of this region, within reach of wheat and other food plant roots penetrating to depths of 7 and 8 ft, there are available from 1000 to 3000 tons of lime per acre. This means that it is almost impossible to construct Deaf Smith County soils artificially. I also believe this is the foundation for Deaf Smith’s formula for good teeth and robust health.[Photo of wheat roots in a measurement device, with caption:] Wheat roots penetrating over 100 inches deep. Note analysis showing calcium content of soil by the side of the roots. This column of soil is in its natural position by the side of the roots exposed by washing. [Photos of farmer working on wheat roots, with caption:] Top: Shaft of dirt containing wheat roots before removing. Bottom: Washing dirt from around roots after excavation. [Photo of high plain of Deaf Smith County, with caption:] The high-altitude plain of Deaf Smith County, showing wheat field where block of wheat roots was excavated. The plant in front of mound of soil, with its whole root structure, was lifted. Note how close to the ground level the clouds float at 4000 ft altitude.
If climate makes topography and geography, does topography and geography make climate? To some extent they do, especially in regions where airborne soil deposits have formed higher elevations. In the climate prevailing over this region, we have the factors of altitude and latitude to bear in mind. At first thought it would seem impossible that latitude can be changed by climate even if elevations are developed in part by airborne deposits, but the effect of variations in altitudes on plant life is similar to the effect of varying latitudes. In maturity of cereal plants, especially wheat, a rise of 100 ft in altitude delays harvest about 24 hours. Since the theoretical seasonal advance from the south to the north is about 17 1/4 miles every 24 hours, this means that every 100 feet of higher altitude corresponds fairly closely to 17 1/4 miles of latitude. When this is applied to the Deaf Smith plateau, with an altitude of approximately 4000 ft, we find harvest there is generally two weeks later than in the Red River valley of the South and north central Texas, where altitudes range from 1200 to 600 ft. This is such a common observation that no one thinks much about it. Everybody knows the cross-country combine operators are through harvesting around Crowell, Seymour, and Olney, Texas, before the wheat is ripe in Hereford.[Figures showing partial map of the Texas panhandle and highlighting the location of Deaf Smith County.]
This is an important observation when we try to evaluate the life-sustaining qualities of the food products grown in this altitude. First, we have an abundance of lime, the element absolutely essential for plant life, but we have also an abundance of all the other soil elements. Then, the plants enjoy a greater number of hours of sunshine, which, due to lower humidity, strikes the plants with greater intensity than in the lower altitude, though the latitude is the same. The fact that it takes two weeks longer for wheat to ripen is evidence that these plants receive the benefit of two weeks more sunshine; but this is not all. In the higher temperatures of the lower altitude, evaporation is usually higher with accompanying higher humidity. Humidity is nothing but particles of water suspended in the air. Drops of water make good magnifying glasses when properly handled, which means they are able to break up and refract light rays. A moist, hazy atmosphere breaks up the intensity of the sun’s rays, encouraging vegetative growth at the expense of seed development. Straw is usually longer in the lower altitudes. In addition to this, the high-altitude, low-humidity areas of the Deaf Smith region have less cloudy weather; and, more frequently, precipitation, due to the coolness of the night atmosphere, falls at night. When all these factors are taken into consideration, food plants on the higher elevations receive, while growing, the benefit of at least 30 days more sunshine than plants in the lower altitude in the same latitude. Sunshine alone means a higher vitamin content in food plants. But this is not all that sunshine and low humidity (hot and dry weather) do to the food plants of the Deaf Smith plateau. The intense, brilliant sunshine of this high plain strikes these plants with full force and literally drives them to wring their existence, their plant food, and their water from the soil. In the lower altitudes, the plant can take much of its water from the air and in this manner escape the effort of drawing it from the soil. The less water in the soil, the more the plants are punished by the sun and the greater becomes the concentration of essential food elements in the grain produced. This step-up, in what is usually included in the word “quality” in wheat, continues until the volume has been reduced to about 20 percent of the maximum yields recorded. While 50-bushel yields of wheat have been harvested in Deaf Smith County, it is usually the 10-bushel yields that produce 58 to 60 pounds of 19- to 20-percent protein wheat. Often, such wheat straw is not more than 12 to 14 inches high.
To date no comparative analysis of what these factors in grains do to the human body has been made. Much of our observations of the quality has been based on the remarkable growth developed by animals grazing on the grass and eating the forage crops grown there. There has been some investigation of its effect on humanity, largely by looking at [the residents’] teeth because Dr. Heard brought out some remarkable observations over a long period of years. What I am here trying to show is the geographical and climatological reasons that may have an advantageous bearing on the food produced in this area.[Photos of crops, with caption:] Top: Potato roots penetrate more than five feet of soil. Bottom: Spinach leaves, large as horse blankets, basking in the brilliant high-plains sunshine at Hereford.
While it might be possible to artificially compound soils with all the favorable elements found in soils on the Deaf Smith plateau, it would not be economical. The cost compared with the soils here, developed by nature, would be too great. When we consider the climatological advantages and how they have been brought about by a number of factors, we soon discover that, regardless of cost, the climate on the Deaf Smith plateau may be equaled in some places but cannot be developed artificially anyplace. When the climate plus soil of this region are combined in food plants and assimilated by human and animal life, we begin to see a combination that may be the real reason for Deaf Smith County’s reputation as a place where the best in man develops. While these two factors are important, in the order given here, I believe a third factor enters into the fine teeth, sound bone structures, and general good health of the people in this area.
I have been asked, “Is it true that Deaf Smith County babies are born with a full set of hard teeth, which they never lose?” No, it is not true. Deaf Smith County babies are just as sweet and dear and toothless as babies in any other part of the country.
“Is it true that men and women 60 to 70 years old can go out to Deaf Smith County and live there two years and then begin to sprout a complete set of new teeth?” No, it is not true, but there are men and women 60 to 70 years old, and some perhaps older, who have lived there the major part of their lives who still have full sets of natural teeth without cavities.
“Would I have good teeth and be strong and healthy if I ate nothing but food grown in Deaf Smith County?” If all the water used to drink would be included in the statement, the answer might be in the affirmative because I believe the next important factor in the development of good teeth in Deaf Smith County is the water.[Photos of crops being harvested, with caption:] (1) 5000,000 bushels of wheat in one pile—about one-tenth of Deaf Smith’s production the year this picture was taken. (2) A closeup of 60 bushels per acre. (3) 17 tons of carrots per acre. (4) Onions by the year, 3 1/2 inches diameter. Measured and weighed: 1116 bushels per acre, 50 lb per bushel.
The food plants we eat and the water we drink are our connection with the soil, from which we come and to which we return.
Parts of the county are underlaid with a stratum of water bearing gravel from 60 to 120 feet below the surface. This stream is thick, in some places from 50 to 60 feet, and full of the clearest, sweetest water I have found anyplace. To the west, where this stratum is found 180 to 200 feet below the surface, it is not so thick but carries an ample volume of water to keep the ordinary windmill pumps supplied while running continuously. Where this stratum of water is found from 60 to 150 feet below the surface, large wells have been sunk, and 8- to 10-inch centrifugal pumps installed. This is known as the pump-irrigated part of the county. This irrigation extends southeast of Deaf Smith County into Castro, Randall, Swisher, Hale, and Floyd counties.[Photo of girl holding a large potato shaped like a V, with caption:] Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not” Victory potato grew in the soils of Deaf Smith County, near Hereford, Texas.
Government surveys indicate this is nothing but groundwater—water seeping down through the soil and accumulating in this large underground reservoir for use as needed. In government test wells in years of extremely heavy rainfall, the gauges show the water level rises from 12 to 15 feet. During dry periods, it goes down. Generally, in driving over the country, it looks level, but on closer observation, we find large areas draining into lakes or sinks. One, the largest in Deaf Smith County, known as Lake Garcia, drains several townships. (A township contains 36 square miles.) After prolonged rainy periods, when viewed from an airplane, the country appears to be speckled with little lakes. Some of this water evaporates, but most of it seeps down to the subterranean reservoir to become the drinking water for man and animals.
To drink this water is a pleasant experience—over the territory I cover, I know no better water. It is clear and sweet. Anyone would say it is pure, but it carries some minerals, especially fluorine. It also carries some lime. Analysis shows that the fluorine content is high but not too high. The presence of these minerals in the water may be another factor in the health of this region, but the climate, causing man to drink more water here than where the humidity is higher, is also very important. Dry air, bright sunshine, and high altitude cause more evaporation from the human body, and consequently it demands a greater intake of water. Since this is another effect of climate, there is little chance of creating it artificially in other places, and it becomes necessary for man to live in the region described to obtain the greatest benefit from all of its human-life-sustaining components.
Chemical Analysis [of Deaf Smith County Water]
Total solids: 360 ppm
Silica residue, as CaCO3:P alkalinity: 60 ppm
Total alkalinity: 255 ppm
Total hardness: 298 ppm
Calcium: 45 ppm
Magnesium: 45 ppm
Iron: 0.14 ppm
Manganese: 0.1 ppm
Sodium (Calc.): 19 ppm
Carbonate: 0 ppm
Bicarbonate: 311 ppm
Sulfate: 29 ppm
Chloride: 34 ppm
Fluoride: 2.0 ppm
Nitrate: 7 ppm
Hypothetical Combination [sic]
Calcium bicarbonate: 182 ppm, 10.61 gpg (grains per gallon)
Magnesium bicarbonate: 208 ppm, 12.13 gpg
Magnesium sulfate: 36 ppm, 2.10 gpg
Magnesium chloride: 12 ppm, 0.79 gpg
Sodium chloride: 41 ppm, 2.39 gpg
Sodium nitrate: 9 ppm, 0.51 gpg
When we look at Deaf Smith County, on top of the Deaf Smith plateau, in the light of these explanations, there is no great secret formula, no mysterious something we cannot understand. However, the unusual is the accumulation of all these natural beneficial and essential life-sustaining elements in one spot, one small region. The great abundance of them here, and the results [this] produces also emphasizes the great deficiency of these factors in many other parts of our country.
The percentage of men accepted by the [U.S.] Army in Deaf Smith County is higher than anyplace where I have had an opportunity to obtain such figures. In June 1944, 93 percent of those called had passed the physical examinations. When we compare this with a scant 65 percent accepted for the whole nation and with the low points, where only 30 to 40 percent have been accepted, it becomes a remarkable record. Time did not permit classification of these figures into those born in the county and those who immigrated to the county during their adolescence or as adults. The percentage of acceptance might be a little higher if computed only on native-born residents. What three and four generations of living on the Deaf Smith plateau might develop in men and women we do not know because, to date, the few observations recorded are all on immigrants who have lived here a few years and first-generation people born in this region.
The general trend of development of this nation has been from the East to the West, but where this trend deviated from the common pattern, the immigration took place from the seaboard towards the interior. Viewed from the East to the West or from the gulf seaboard to the North, the Deaf Smith plateau was among the last of our rich-soil areas to be preempted by the white man. When men who had lived in the timberland regions of lower altitudes moved west and saw the treeless “Cap Rock” plains of the Texas panhandle, they concluded it was the next thing to a desert. Trees have always been considered an indicator of a country’s productive ability. A treeless, barren country has little attraction for men not accustomed to it. For this reason most of the people who came to this region had the wrong conception of its ability to sustain human life. They were accustomed to a humid climate and suffered discomfort in the dry, arid atmosphere that we now see is beneficial in producing man’s best food.[Photo of granaries and grain, with caption:] Granaries full, and 100,000 bushels of grain piled on the ground—20 miles north of Hereford, Texas. [Photos of grain elevators and cattle, respectively, with caption:] Top: A million-bushel elevator and the ground in front of it, covered with wheat. Bottom: They still produce Herefords at Hereford, Texas.
Instead of trying to cultivate the soil, they were astonished that it produced something when they did plant a few seeds. They judged everything by the amount of rainfall, which was small compared with that which they were accustomed. In most instances their personal feelings in summer and the barren appearance of the prairies were their gauge of precipitation, and for years many of them never knew what might be the total of their annual rainfall. All of them felt certain that all the country needed was more rain, less agriculture, and perhaps a few more “stock cows.”
In this manner, while somewhat influenced by the memories of a secure childhood, men have formed the wrong conception of where their best and most essential foods grow. Timber is the last stand of vegetation against erosion, and pine is almost the last stand of all vegetation against this soil-depleting movement. Pine will grow where almost no other plants can exist. Where the rainfall is heavy, water erosion, leaching of the soils, and continuous cropping have reduced the essential life-sustaining soil elements until neither man nor his food plants can exist. Yet man loves to live there and extols this environment; anything different from it is translated into disparaging comparisons. When we apply our present knowledge of the essential soil minerals required to properly sustain man, we find man’s common understanding of the sources of his food is wrong.
As time goes on, this knowledge of the value of food produced on soils and under climatic conditions such as we find on the Deaf Smith plateau will be disseminated more and more. Transportation will be speeded up, and gradually men will demand to know the soil origin of their foods. When this takes place, the demand for foods grown on the Deaf Smith plateau may exceed the supply. When the simple facts here presented become common knowledge, many will move to this region to obtain the full benefits of its soil, climate, and water. Others may be content to eat some of the food products grown there. Of the many items of food the area can produce, wheat and wheat products are the most economical to transport and preserve. Because of this, the county’s major production will undoubtedly be the staple bread cereal for some time to come. Because of the size of Deaf Smith County and the large percentage of arable land within its borders, the wheat acreage can easily become so large that in years favorable for high average yields, 10 to 12 million bushels will be produced within the boundaries of Deaf Smith County.[Signed:] A.W. Erickson
September 8th, 1945 [Photo of a girl standing behind a stack of potatoes, with caption:] Growing girls and big potatoes. [Photos with caption:] (1) Over 200 bags, or 10 tons, or 333 bu. per acre of potatoes. (2) 12 to 17 tons per acre of carrots out of Deaf Smith County soils. (3) Granaries full and running over. (4) 60 to 73 bu. of white corn per acre. [The following content appeared as front matter in Erickson’s original booklet:]
“When this earth was formed for a habitation, everything needful for the proper nutrition of all living things—vegetable and animal—was placed in the earth.”
—Dr. G.W. Heard
“From the foothills of the Rockies
down the valley of the Platte,
“Spreading southward o’er the prairies
to the Estacado flat;
“From the wheat fields north of Dallas
to the Caprock’s lofty plain.
“Faith and hope are painting pictures
of a golden field of grain.”
“To the observant dentist, teeth—and the mouth as a whole—reflect the nutritional plane of his patient and thereby reveal not only the irregularities in the quality of his food but should point much farther back to the plane of soil fertility in the region where the patient’s food was grown.”
—Dr. William A. Albrecht
American Journal of Orthodontics and Oral Surgery, Orthodontics Pages,
Vol. 31, No. 5, May 1945, pp. 279–286
By A.W. Erickson. Field Notes Crop Reporting Service, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1945.