By Jack Sheedy
Continuing on, following my business manager Willie’s earlier advice, I present here excerpts from my social media page of entries from the month of May concerning wacky weather witnessed on Cape Cod.
Willie, by the way, is my Boston Terrier-Dachshund business manager, who is celebrating his fifth birthday today. It’s amazing how quickly the years go by. I remember when he was just a puppy business manager.
Incidentally, Willie has asked for cigars and whiskey for his birthday, which actually translates as crunchy treats and tap water – the poor little guy doesn’t know any better.
As for me, when I ask for crunchy treats and a glass of tap water, I really mean my pipe and an Old-Fashioned glass of whiskey on the rocks.
From my social media page…
There were reports that perhaps a tornado touched down in Stoughton yesterday (Note: no need for alarm, this event happened back on May 9th). That news is a segue to a tale from Chapter 8 of CAPE ODD, entitled “Earthquakes, Waterspouts, and Meteorites,” in which I detail a number of stories about waterspouts and tornadoes seen in the Cape Cod area. The most famous such weather event witnessed on Cape Cod was documented in the August 23, 1870 issue of the Barnstable Patriot, and the story was included in the local tome, Barnstable – Three Centuries of a Cape Cod Town by Donald G. Trayser.
According to the Patriot: “Barnstable and Yarmouth on Tuesday last were treated to a first class sensation in the shape of a WATERSPOUT … it was first seen about 1 o’clock, P.M., forming over Scorton, and travelling in a zig-zag course in a direction across Barnstable Harbor … Sand, leaves, stones flew into the air, trees were uprooted, and a general panic among inanimate things resulted at once.”
I imagine there was a general panic among animate things as well.
The article continues: “Leaving the shore, it struck the water at the upper part of Barnstable Harbor … Crossing the harbor it struck the shore again, in Barnstable, passing through an orchard of the Widow H, stripping the trees of fruit, leaves and twigs.”
Not wanting to see the fruit go to waste, it is said that Widow H baked apple pies around the clock for a solid week after the storm.
The cyclone eventually hit a lumber yard owned by Josiah Hinckley, tossing wood everywhere, as well as out into the water. Other damage resulted, including a sailboat which was sunk and a bathhouse which was destroyed.
Patrons of the bathhouse escaped with towels covering their privates and with looks of embarrassment covering their faces. A fund drive was quickly established and a bake sale was held to rebuild the bathhouse, with the Widow H donating a good many of her apple pies to the cause.
In the next entry we’ll provide more tales of Cape Cod waterspouts and tornadoes, including one which levitated a cow. (Don’t worry, the cow survived … although there was no living with her afterwards.)
Continuing with stories of tornadoes and waterspouts, in June 1880 a waterspout appeared at Buzzards Bay, near Monument Beach. According to a Barnstable Patriot article, “It finally struck the land near Barlow’s Landing in Pocasset, ripping up the sods from the bank, a foot thick and a yard square.”
The tornado went on to topple stonewalls, destroy a dory, and, remarkably, levitate a cow “belonging to Capt. William Barlow, happening to be in the line of its march.” Fortunately for Capt. Barlow and his cow, the surprised bovine was returned to terra firma unharmed. The Vatican later considered the event miraculous, and the cow was deemed blessed, thus leading to the now popular expression “holy cow.”
The storm also produced hailstones the size of cranberries, and other reports “as large as pigeons’ eggs.” There were further reports of hailstones the size of golf balls, which made for a confusing round of golf for those playing at the nearby Pocasset Golf Club.
For more CAPE ODD stories, listen to our interview on NPR radio:
Jack Sheedy is the author of six books about Cape Cod. Search “Jack Sheedy – Cape Cod” for more info.
Willie is the author of an article on dark matter in this month’s issue of Dog & Telescope.