Sunday, March 01, 2009

Arson in Oil Creek Town

by David Parmer

Right: A generic photo of a barn fire.

In his August 10, 1933 Buzzardtown News column, Uncle Zeke solemnly reported on disturbing news from Orlando. “On Wednesday night of last week, J. E. Riffle [Joesph Emory] of Orlando had the misfortune to lose his barn by fire with all its contents which consisted of several tons of hay and straw, lumber, harness and several other things of value. His loss amounts to about $1500 with no insurance. The fire was thought to be of incendiary origin. On Thursday afternoon bloodhounds were brought from Camden-on-Gauley but no evidence of the firebug was found. Hundreds of people on foot and in automobiles were hoping the hounds would find the guilty parties.”

“On Sunday night of last week, D. S. Bennett [David Stansbury Bennett, husband of Macel (Parmer) ] who lives at Orlando lost his barn by fire also, and about a year ago, J. M. Scarf’s barn was burned. All parties are heavy losers, none rich by any means, but all are good citizens who try to make a living.”

Other fires of mysterious origin had plagued Orlando in preceding years. The 1931, the I.O.O.F. Lodge Hall burned to the ground, and was a substantial loss to the community.
The perpetrator of the evil deeds was never apprehended by law enforcement authorities.

The Evil Man*
Crimes he took into his grave,
His spites and jealousies;
Ill will festered deep in him,
Villainy deep engraved.

Alone his years, no love for all,
No open arms had he;
Deviltry was his only mate,
Adverse to friendship’s call.

Surveilled by day and oft by night,
To pleasure eye and ear;
A voyeur spy, his mission’s was
An intimate scene to sight.

A nighttime blaze or naked breast
Lustfully, he did watch.
What balm he found,
Was a curse to Heaven’s test.

Old Shep was not his best of friend,
His ear was much too keen;
Rat-poisoned meat,
An offered treat, a canine life to end.

Kids, they mocked at every turn,
Poked fun at the spooky man;
But woe to those
That very night, a father’s barn could burn.

He thought that God called to him
To settle slights and scores;
But God indeed was not to blame,
It came from deep within.

A lodge hall home, ablaze one night,
With store and barber shop.
Townsmen tense and fear did grow,
More to his delight.

Kinships meant naught to him,
He dealt with all the same.
Guile and ruin was his aim,
And woe to despised kin.

Suspicion, yes, there was of him,
He was watched by wary eyes;
Blinds pulled down and doors at lock
To ward off his wicked sin.

Age dulled some his perversity,
But it had not yet run its course;
Granary shields removed by aged hand
To let the rats run free.

Annual floods delighted,
The villainous streak in him,
Smug to see his neighbor’s suffer
And all their life’s work blighted.

A devious man, that he was,
No remorse he left upon this earth;
Iniquity to the grave he took,
Tragedy without cause.

· The “Evil Man” is a fictitious character and is not based on any real person, living or dead.

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