Sunday, 25 September 2011

Chickens in the Trees

A tornado carved a path through the village of Kirkton, Ontario, tearing off rooftops, flattening 40 year old trees, spooking horses and scattering chickens in June of 1933.  Truman Tufts, caught planting in the fields, lost the reigns of the horses, and was knocked to the ground by the force of the wind, the roller rolling over his leg.  His wife Florence sat inside the farmhouse.  Their young daughter Norma was sitting on the front porch in a little chair at a table with her doll ready to have tea.  She saw the sky turn as black as night when her mother grabbed her, brought her inside and put her under the four poster bed.  Florence then tried to shut their front door but it forced open by the wind.  As Norma hid, the lace curtains were wrenched from their rods and the windows shattered. 

Meanwhile, up the road a quarter of a mile at the Kirkton School, Norma's siblings followed their young teacher down to the cellar.  In time the wind died down and the three Tufts siblings were sent home.  Making their way up the lane, Edwin and Marion cried while Ross, although quiet, looked shaken.  They saw the hundred maple trees that their dad used to water as a child, all flattened to the ground, pulled up by their roots.  Chickens perched in the trees.  The horses slowly returned to the barn, its roof sucked up by the storm.  They saw the roof of the house that their great-grandfather, Thomas, had built, torn off at the back.   Later, little Norma found her Mom's lace curtains in the apple orchard.  She discovered railway ties, embedded earlier in the 1900's as part of a partially completed CPR line, uprooted and cast aside. 

In the weeks to come, Norma could be seen outside the house, gathering shingles from the roof and nailing them to a post to prevent the post from suffering the same fate as the roof.  Passersby would drive down the laneway to gawk at the damaged homestead and then make their way back to  Highway 23.  The Tufts remained in the house for the summer, but when winter hit they moved across the road to their grandparents' farm.  This continued for a few years until they abandoned the house completely.  Ross remembered that on occasion, passersby would steal pieces of furniture from the Tufts homestead, later re-appearing at antique auctions in Stratford.  Bit by bit nature reclaimed the land and the house was engulfed in greenery. 

Over fifty years later, Ross was approached by his cousin Norm (my Dad) asking if he could salvage some of the fieldstone from the barn and woodworking from the house for his new home being built in Grand Bend.  Ross graciously agreed and now Thomas' handiwork is being enjoyed by my parents.  For Truman's children, they will never forget the day the sky turned as black as night and the wind whipped through the village, turning everything upside down.  

St. Mary's Cyclone of 1933 (I believe it was the same storm) photo courtesy

Cyclone - 1933

1 comment:

  1. My mother jane McNaughton born 1942 lived in kirk ton and remembers the abandoned tuft home. The legend held that the home looked to be left in a hurry with the table even still bring set for a dinner that was not eaten and that the dining room table also had a small chalkboard with the name a of the five children. The last name written being baby Leroy. It was a mystery to her and the other children of kirkton as to why the house seemed to have been abandoned this way and they would sneak up to look through the windows. Have you heard of this?