Group mourns waterfowl with poetry and prayer

November 14, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A cold wind blew the homemade wreath across the water of the pond at Poor House Farm Park as a dozen or so mourners gathered at a Saturday afternoon vigil for the 28 ducks and geese that were found dead there Nov. 3.

The somber ceremony was marked with poetry readings, a prayer and a moment of silence followed by the launching of the wreath, which bore feathers that vigil organizer Tamara Roush had collected along the shore in her many visits to feed the waterfowl in the past three years.

"I picked up the newspaper last week and saw the story," Roush said Saturday. "The next thing I knew, I was on the porch of my house, bawling my eyes out."


The toll included 12 Canada geese, six wild mallards and 10 domestic ducks, said Tom Stuckey of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, who is the lead investigator on the case. A few were floating in the pond, and the bodies of the rest appeared to have been tossed into an adjacent wooded area.

Stuckey was among those who attended Saturday's vigil.

"We know a lot more then we did when we first started our investigation," Stuckey said Saturday. He didn't elaborate.

A few days after the grim discovery, Stuckey said the waterfowl hadn't died naturally. The bodies of the ducks and geese were sent to the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, W.Va., to be examined.

Roush, 40, of Martinsburg, said she often came to the rustic park west of Martinsburg to get away from the world.

"There were just three ducks when I started coming - I kind of adopted them," she said.

More and more gathered at the pond and she was delighted as she fed them and watched when she came to the park.

Her sister, Patricia Brooks, 35, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., often accompanied her sister to the park.

"It was just a senseless murder of God's creatures," Brooks said as she handed out laminated cards bearing an Indian legend about the mystical link between man and animals.

Roush read a Keats poem about beauty and offered a prayer as she choked back tears. There were candles, flowers and a duck decoy on a table at the vigil site.

"I needed to do this because this was a sacred place for me," Roush said. "This was the least I could do for them."

Rewards totaling up to $3,500 are being offered about information leading to the people responsible for the deaths. The Great Lakes Office of the Humane Society of the United States is offering up to $2,500 and Reuben Darby, a Morgan County resident and animal rights activist, has donated $1,000.

Anyone with information about the incident may call the DNR's local law enforcement division at 304-267-0037.

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