April has come and gone along with the 61st anniversary of the infamous Woodward Tornado.

One more year has past and left the mysteries surrounding the event unsolved.

One of the famous mysteries connected with the 1947 tornado is the disappearance of a little girl named Joan Gay Croft who survived the tornado but vanished shortly after.

However, this story is not about that particular mystery. This is the story of a phantom poet who captured that fateful day, April 9, 1947, in verse and was never heard from thereafter.

The story was brought to public attention by Woodward resident Rita Boyle who began the tale with, “After the tornado my mother was on her way home from town . . .”

Boyle was eleven years old at the time and said the event took place in the weeks shortly after the tornado.

Boyle’s mother, Mary Ellen Lock, was driving from Woodward to the family’s home southeast of town. As she turned onto a dirt road, something laying alongside the road caught her eye.

That something was a simple envelope that had gotten wet thus obscuring the names and addresses on it.

Lock opened the envelope and found a simple newspaper clipping bearing, in print, a work of poetry immortalizing the Woodward Tornado.

The clipping was not from a local newspaper and it was later hypothesized by the family, due to clues on the backside of the clipping, that it had come from a newspaper in Delta, Colo.

The poem became a familiar part of Boyle’s life.

“I learned the poem for memory work when I was in school there in Sharon,” said Boyle.

Since then the poem was published in the local newspaper and in the Woodward County Journal but always as author unknown.

But Boyle was not satisfied with the poem being published anonymously as the name of the poet was in the newspaper clipping with the poem.

However she was always told that without the author’s permission the author’s name could not be used.

Boyle said she always felt a twinge of guilt about the poem being published without and credit being given to the poet. She looked for poet on the census records and also sought help from the local museum but to no avail.

When Boyle brought the mystery to the attention of the Woodward News she hoped the media would be able to help solve the mystery of the missing poet.

A call to the public library in Delta, Colo. was made in hopes of finding a microfilm copy of the entire newspaper from which the clipping came. However, the library did not keep old newspapers and suggested the historical society may have them.

A member of the historical society said they had been asked about the particular clipping before and were convinced the clipping was not from Delta County, Colorado, but rather from another Delta County in the United States.

One call was made to the library of Delta County, Texas before the clues on the back of the newspaper clipping pointed right back to Colorado.

A mention was made on the backside of the clipping of “Governor Knous” who was a Colorado governor and a visit he made to Grand Junction. There was also a reference to Meeker Street which is a street in Delta, Colo.

So the search continued in Delta, Colo. without the help of the historical society.

With no census evidence and no copy of the entire newspaper the question was, “Where to try next?”

A phone call was made to the Delta County Independent, Delta’s newspaper. The paper had no old newspapers and turned up no information on anyone with the same name as the poet.

The next call made was to Delta’s senior center with a sliver of hope that someone might remember the poet.

The senior center director, Jim Jones, was willing and eager to help find this under-credited poet and agreed to ask around to find out if any of the senior citizens would have answers.

Some of Delta’s seniors thought they knew the poet but others disagreed saying that wasn’t the right name. In the end there was still no answer.

There was nothing left to do after that but take shots in the dark. Using the Internet phone numbers and e-mail addresses were found and calls and notes were sent out but none proved to be the correct method of finding the person.

But yet, on the clipping, the poet’s name sits permanently in ink. Credited in Delta, Colo. for a poem written about Woodward. Never credited in Woodward for the same poem.

The name on the clipping is Fay Weeks.

Who she is, no one knows.

Why she was here, none can say.

But she experienced the tornado and penned a memoir. And then she mailed it to a friend who never received it.



The poem goes as follows:

“In an Oklahoma city, which was always clean and neat

Lived a lot of happy people, in this little county seat.

Everyone was gay and cheerful as they went along their way,

Till the terrible disaster of the early April day.



All day long the winds had shifted and the dust had scurried by,

While the sun and clouds played hide and seek across the angry sky.

People gave small thought to the weather as they hurried to and fro.

Spring had come to their fair city making hears and faces glow.



In the little town of Woodward, children scampered home from school,

Glad to be so gay and carefree from the ‘Three Rs’ rigid rule.

Everyone was swiftly planning, spirits there were running high,

Little dreaming ere the morrow many souls would have to die.



For the sky had turned to copper and the clouds were massing low.

Then there came a deadly stillness, yet the people didn’t know

That a terrible catastrophe was well upon its way

And their homes would be in ruins long before another day.



Swiftly darkness came that evening as the black clouds gathered fast;

From the southwest came a roaring like a furnace’s fearful blast -

Then with screaming, fierce crescendo, down upon the town it swept,

And it captured many people, as within their homes they slept.



Lights were darkened, building crumbled, as the demon roared away,

And the town was made a shambles with the passing of the day.

People died in pain and horror in the blackness of that hour;

Others, pitifully wounded, mid their ruined homes did cower.



But the rescue work had started, e’er the havoc was quite o’er;

Men and women risked their safety on this grim and grisly chore.

Cries were heard from hurt and dying, it would make the strongest quail,

To begin the work of mercy, mid the devastating gale.



Parent searching for their children, children seeking mom and dad.

Fear and heartbreak stamped so deeply on the face of lass and lad.

Bodies there so maimed and broken, no one knew just who they were.

Sights and sounds were almost more than mortal being could endure.



People’s homes were torn to splinters; clothes and records blown afar;

Some were killed inside a building, others safe within their car.

Fires broke out, while rain was pouring - water lines had failed them too.

Men risked life and limb in darkness, doing things someone must do.



People there were cold and shivering for a snow had followed fast;

Close upon a sultry spring day had arrived a wintery blast.

Funerals were managed hourly, friends and loved ones in a daze,

As they searched through twisted wreckage, finding much that would amaze.



Loved ones buried, homes were started, while the rain kept pouring down,

For the Deeder of strength and mercy, many there have won reknown.

Woodward people met disaster in the darkness of the night -

All were brave, mid fear and trembling, e’er the morning brought its light.



Long this storm will be remembered, ‘tis a thing we can’t forget -

How the twister struck so fiercely, capered on, while people wept.

And the devastating havoc, no one can ever describe,

But to the valor of those people, everyone can point with pride.”



The Woodward Tornado killed an estimated 107 people and left more than 1,000 injured.

The original newspaper clipping of the poem is in the possession of the Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum in Woodward.

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