he storm froze that slush layer into rock-hard ice. Cattle could not break through it and starved to death by the tens of thousands (The Wichita Eagle reported 7000 cattle dead in the Cherokee Strip alone,). Ranchers who were millionaires in 1885 resorted to collecting cattle bones to sell for fertilzer, just to buy groceries. George M. Russell drew "The Last of 5000" to explain to his boss what had happened to the herd. And summer wasn't much better: it featured an all-time record drought. And the winter of 1886/1887 delivered the second one-two punch: a second severe winter. For Laura Engels Wilder, it was the ninth year since her family settled on the prairie; she wrote about it in "Little House on the Prairie."
It was the end of the open range. Ranchers realized they couldn't survive another disaster like this and petitioned Congress to close the public ranges. The result was the Taylor Grazing Act that created the Bureau of Land Management, closed the Government Land Offices and turned Federal lands over to the BLM. The livestock industry never recovered.
You can read those newspaper articles on line by looking up the Library of Congress' website, Chronicling America.
Nowadays we know that those horrendous years were the result of sulfides in the atmosphere resulting from the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. Sulfides cool the planet by reflecting sunlight back into space. Volcanos typically produce a one-to-six year cooling. That's climate change - in this case, it was temporary: when the volcano stopped polluting, the weather went back to normal.
Edited by Doug1o29, 30 June 2013 - 11:31 PM.