Where did this statement come from? Maybe a farmer, who had run out of food for his hog with no money to buy more hog food, turned his hog out into the fields and woods to forage for himself. The hog would find acorns in the woods to help satisfy his hunger and then he would have to root for more dinner.

By the way, you city folks who have not been around swine may not know that they have tough noses that can actually dig (or root) into the soil and find tender roots, and maybe grubs to feed on.

And so it is “Root, hog, or die.” It is simple, some effort must be forthcoming or the hog will die.

So it was during the Great Depression. It was “root hog or die” for people, as well as pigs.

A young girl recently asked me this question, “Was the Great Depression like the Great Recession?” Well, hardly, darling.

You had a support network supplied to you including food stamps, unemployment payments, social security, welfare payments, student loans, childcare assistance, Section 8 housing and many other programs to prop you up until better times came down the road.

During the Great Depression, citizens had none of the above programs —- none. They had to “Root hog or die” — literally.

Some bought apples by the bushel and sold them on a street corner, one at a time, for a few cents profit. Many found a plot around their home to plant a few seeds and raise a few vegetables. Some hunted wild game for food, and others, without guns and ammunition, trapped animals for food.

I knew a boy who was skillful enough with his slingshot to kill rabbits for food on the family table. He knew the meaning of “root hog or die”. I remember poor people picking wild blackberries and carrying the heavy buckets into town going door to door to sell the juicy fruit.

Some people in the cities, not having land to produce food, stood in soup lines, probably supplied by churches or other charitable organizations. Other men hitched a ride on a train, maybe riding in an empty boxcar, to go to another place in hope of finding work. They were called Hobos. There were Hobo camps around the country where they bound together for the common good. A tough life, indeed.

No, it was not like this in the Great Recession. Hardly, darling.

Another example of hard times in the Great Depression was when Lucy was a little girl and a hole was worn in her shoe sole. Her Dad cut cardboard to fit inside her little shoe to help keep out the cold and dampness while she waited on the school bus, but Lucy remembers crying because she was so cold. It wasn’t like this in the Great Recession, Darling. But that ain’t all.

When Lucy was a bit older she had to pick cotton. As the hot sun bore down, she drug a large bag down the row of cotton picking the big fluffy balls of cotton hoping that each row would be her last for the day. Yep, Lucy was a “root hog or die” kind of girl.

President Roosevelt tried to alleviate the suffering by establishing programs, but they were not giveaways. I remember my Dad climbing into the back of an open bed truck to join other men at about daybreak to go work on some government project. (This was in the summer when Dad was not teaching. He was more fortunate than many others. He had a job.)

Dad would return home in the same truck, sweaty, dirty and tired, at about dusk, all for one dollar a day. Yes, one dollar a day, darling, and he was glad to get it. Not like the Great Recession. Hardly.

By the way, Lucy’s Dad did the same. It was called working for the WPA (Public Works Administration).

Young single men 18 to 25 found work by going to CCC Camps (Civilian Conservation Corp). These young men donated their labor to improve parks and other public places in exchange for subsistence. No freebie here, either.

This program started in 1933 and did not end until 1942 when the war effort (World War II) needed strong bodies to work in defense plants and build the great Army and Navy that won the Great War. Again, Darling, this had no similarity to the Great Recession.

Many boys did not come home. One family lost five sons that went into the ocean depths as one of our Naval ships was sunk by a Nazi submarine. It was “root hog or die” as our soldiers and sailors fought the military mights of Germany and Japan. 291,557 died, with over a million total USA military casualties, including those missing in action.

These brave boys who had to become men overnight had to do a lot of rooting to save our country, our freedom and our way of life. They were made tough by the hardships of the Great Depression and they fought to win — and win they did.

There was no knee to the ground, there was no disrespect of our flag and our National Anthem. It was “root hog or die” to the ultimate—and thank the Lord for their sacrifices.

Click HERE to order Ray’s book Depression Baby: True Stories from Growing Up During the Great Depression in Appalachia — and Other Things…



Writer/NarratorRay B. Rogers
Producer/Editor/EngineerBradford Rogers
Additional VoiceoverBradford Rogers


Special thanks to Lobo Loco and these talented creatives!

Music for this podcast may include the following:

Malte Junior – Hall (ID 738)
Lobo Loco – www.musikbrause.de
Creative Commons License (BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Good Thoughts (ID 45)
Lobo Loco – www.musikbrause.de
Creative Commons License (BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Hoh Hey (ID 918)
Lobo Loco – www.musikbrause.de
Creative Commons License (BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Keep It In Your Heart (ID 899)
Lobo Loco – www.musikbrause.de
Creative Commons License (BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Everything on the Colne is good
Nicky Cook
Creative Commons License (BY-NC-SA)

Jason Shaw
Creative Commons License (BY)

When The Mockingbirds Are Singing In The Wildwood
Frank C. Stanley
Public Domain

Click HERE to order Ray’s book Depression BabyTrue Stories from Growing Up During the Great Depression in Appalachia — and Other Things…