Directly related post from July 25, here.
For some reason lost to history, on July 28, 1949, we Bernards took a midweek 100 mile trip from Sykeston ND to Grandma and Grandpa Busch’s farm near Berlin ND. While there seems no particular reason for the trip, mid-summer would have been a logical time to visit Mom’s parents, and brother Vince and sister Edithe at the farm. Dad was school superintendent in Sykeston, and at the farm, crops were not yet ready to harvest.
We stayed overnight, a fateful decision we all lived to tell about. (Such trips, to my recollection, were never more than one night. One overnight was complicated enough with five little kids.)
(click on all photos to enlarge them)
Fitting into the Busch’s small prairie house was no small task. By 1949, a two room addition had been added to the west (left) side of the house shown above.
As bedtime came that evening, best I can piece together, the 9 year old, me, slept with Uncle Vince, 24, in his tiny upstairs room; across the wall to the south, the window visible in the picture, was Edith’s room. Mary Ann, 6, and Florence, 5, slept with her.
Grandma and Grandpa were downstairs, and Mom and Dad, with Frank, 3, and John, who had turned 1 May 25, shared the other downstairs bedroom.
No one has ever recalled anything unusual about the day we were there. It was simply a summer visit.
Crops were maturing, but not yet ready for harvest. As usual, the dozen or so cows had been milked, back out to pasture. Horses would have been in the barn.
Sometime about midnight, best can be figured, a horrific wind seemed to come out of the south. My sister, Flo, described what happened next: “Oh, how I remember that storm! The thunder and lightning was impressive – scary! Then the window blew out and we tried to keep it covered with a blanket.”
We were all terrified, and to my knowledge none of the six adults did the common sense things you’re warned to do today, starting with taking everyone down into the cellar. Of course, back then, weather reports were basically what you saw in real time; no sirens or such. Storms were expected to happen now and again. But, as Uncle Vincent just recalled days ago, ordinary storms usually came in late afternoon, and this one came up suddenly, very late at night, and was a ‘hum-dinger’. Even at 9 years old, I recall sheets of water (it seemed) coming under the window and over the windowsill.
Being a strong Catholic family, there were plenty of “Hail Mary’s”.
The storm passed, no injuries, probably not even livestock, and Mary Ann recalls: “I remember going out at first light and seeing the [barn] roof missing.” That barn was less than a football field length from the house. We’d all had a very close call. Sometimes there’s talk that we experienced a tornado, but I don’t think so. It was just a horrific wind, and life changed for everyone, for a time.
I have found four photos taken of the barn shortly after the storm: Each are worth clicking on, to enlarge.
In the first photo, at left, you can see the damage. What appears to be the barn roof, misplaced, is actually a smaller barn-like structure that survived the storm. In the third, Grandpa Busch contemplates the next steps; in the fourth, the photographer, my Dad, is revealed by the unusually long legs in the shadow. (Click twice on this photo and you’ll see two horses who survived the storm.)
All around the area, there was devastation. The LaMoure Chronicle talked a lot more about the storm and the damage just in the LaMoure County vicinity: Berlin storm Jul 28 49001. The F. W. Busch damage is mentioned in the last column.
This being a working farm, with cows to be milked, there wasn’t time to be depressed. But rebuilding was daunting; there was lots of damage, most everywhere, on surrounding farms.
The adults worked like…farmers…and in fairly short order the task was looking manageable.
Grandpa was 69 when the storm hit; Vince, his son, was 24; my Dad was 41. The age references are important.
Grandpa knew of a farm on Hwy 13 just east of LaMoure whose barn roof design looked replicable. He built a form on the hayloft floor where the three men nailed four 1x4s together to make every new roof beam. Dad stayed at the farm for some time to help out, and Vince always says that without him, they couldn’t have done the project.
The roof beams were raised, and the local Priest, himself an expert carpenter, saw them, and said they wouldn’t last….
Vincent did the backbreaking work of shingling the barn. It must have been terribly hard, even at age 24, and frightening as well, but you do what you gotta do.
Shortly after the project was completed, within a few months, somebody took the below photo of the newly raised barn roof.
Unfortunately, either they or someone else had forgotten to advance the film, so what you see is a double exposure including other visitors to the farm. Both photos seem to be from the same day.
Front and center is Uncle Vince, in about 1949. (He’s also at left in the same picture. Click on this picture a second time for more enlargement.) The others in the photo are his sister Florence, and her husband Bernard Wieland, and their then young son Tom, all from Dazey ND. Tom is sitting on Busch’s then-new 1948 Plymouth.
Ironically, Tom Wieland died recently. Vincent and I went to his funeral in Valley City. Time passes by.
Last week, I took a photo of some of the roof beams in the still standing barn. Dad, Vince and Grandpa did damned good work back in 1949!
Lord willing, I’ll be back in that barn today, July 28, 2014, on the 65th anniversary of the big windstorm of 1949. There’ll be a bit of nostalgia, no doubt.