Excerpt from Dust Bowl Girls by Lydia Reeder, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Dust Bowl Girls

The Inspiring Story of the Team That Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory

by Lydia Reeder

Dust Bowl Girls by Lydia Reeder X
Dust Bowl Girls by Lydia Reeder
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2017, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2017, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Print Excerpt

New Recruit
Chapter 1
February 1930

Doll Harris crouched in ready position, took a deep breath, and focused on the basketball now in enemy territory. More than anything, she wanted the ball back. Doll's high school team, the Cement Lady Bulldogs, was battling its archrival, the Fletcher Lady Wildcats, for the Southwest Oklahoma district championship and the right to play in the regional tournament. Doll was a senior and the Bulldogs' star forward. The game, in its final seconds, was tied, 28–28. The hometown crowd of 350 leaped to their feet when the Bulldog guards fought hard for the ball, the rubber soles of their Converse high-tops rendering sharp chirps with every move. The referee, expecting the tangle of players to commit a foul at any minute, held his whistle ready.

"Get the ball to Doll, you all," the pep squad chanted.

"Ball to Doll!" the crowd joined in.

helped her to guide shots magically over the rim and into the basket. Doll made almost half of the field goals she attempted and nearly all of the free throws.

With twelve seconds left in the game, Doll and her teammates did the drill that would set up the final shot. The Cement forwards passed the ball to each other, keeping it in play to run down the clock. The frustrated Wildcat guards couldn't get their hands back on the ball. Finally, with three seconds left, Doll jumped to catch a wild pass from her teammate. With one second left, she made the shot. As if answering a magnetic call from the basket, the ball whooshed cleanly through the net. Cement had won, 30–28.

Cheers shook the gymnasium's rafter bolts. Farmers, ranchers, oil-rig workers, and their families who attended all the games leaped skyward. Schoolkids hugged each other, and the heroic Lady Bulldogs, still feeling the effects of the adrenaline rush, danced in circles while holding hands. A unifying spirit took hold, driving away thoughts about the plummeting crop prices, rising foreclosures, and growing food scarcity. These worries evaporated in the warmth spread by the delight in winning.

After more than fifteen minutes, the jubilant shouts dwindled to buzzing murmurs, and the boys began warming up on court for the next game. The crowd settled in to root for their team one more time.

Doll was on her way back to the locker room when she heard someone call her name. She glanced back to see her coach, Mr. Daily, motioning her over to where he was standing with a broad-shouldered man wearing a black suit and a silk tie. He stuck out like a sore thumb in the midst of all the people milling about in work overalls and cotton dresses. As she walked back toward them, the stranger fixed his collar and smoothed a hand down the front of his jacket. Mr. Daily introduced the well-dressed man as Sam Babb, coach of the Cardinals at the Oklahoma.

Presbyterian College for Girls in Durant, 150 miles east of Cement. Doll lifted her eyebrows and stared at Mr. Babb. His thick black hair was cut in a flattop above a high forehead and bushy eyebrows. He had a broad, stern face; a straight nose; and a prominent chin that turned double when he stared down at her. She never would have guessed he was a basketball coach. He looked more like a banker from the city. And she knew all she needed to know about bankers—her father, a sharecropper, hated them because they were always raising interest rates. As Babb took a couple of steps toward her, she noticed that he had a pronounced limp.

Babb greeted Doll in a smooth baritone voice. When he reached out to shake her hand, his solemn face lit up with a smile. He said he'd like to tell her about the basketball program at OPC, that he was looking for a talented forward to add to the Cardinals' offense. "I need players willing to work hard. Are you willing to work, Miss Harris?"

"I'm a competitor."

Excerpted from Dust Bowl Girls by Lydia Reeder. Copyright © 2017 by Lydia Reeder. Excerpted by permission of Algonquin Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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