Study Guide

Joe De La Flor in Out of the Dust

By Karen Hesse

Joe De La Flor

Remember the opening of the old musical Oklahoma when the cowboy rides across the prairie on a horse singing "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning"? That's Joe De La Flor, Cimarron's very own singing cowboy (91.1).

While he's joyful about his work as a rancher and loves the land, we first meet him when he's just about as bad off as everyone else. On Billie Jo's way to the store, she sees Joe in the midst of a cloud of dust, seeming "dazed" by it, his cattle "rib-thin" from the drought. The fact that the typically jovial Joe doesn't notice her and is hurting from the dust is proof enough to her that "our future is drying up / and blowing away with the dust" (20.3). When Mr. Sunnyside succumbs to the gloom, well, you know the gloom is legit.

Joe, however, doesn't give up, not even later in the book when County Agent Dewey shows up to shoot his cows because he can't feed them anymore. Instead of throwing in the towel, he takes his remaining cattle to the Cimarron River, which hasn't completely dried up, and gathers thistles and weeds to feed them (56.1-2). Joe's undaunted drive for survival is ultimately rewarded when the rain comes and replenishes his herd, proof that determination through the Dust Bowl's adversity can pay off in the end.