Authors: Martha Moore
Printed in the United States
Copyright Â© 2010 M Moore
All rights reserved
Cover illustration by
Monique Legasey Pappas
Creative Communications Art Studio
This book is dedicated to
Catherine and Christopher
SAMUEL R NICHOLAS
PVT. US ARMY
Died June 17, 1918
Belleau Wood, France
In l914, the most common bird
in North America became extinct:
THE PASSENGER PIGEON
Many thanks to my family for their support, and for encouraging me to go from writer to author. I wish to thank my friend, Monique Pappas, for the wonderful book cover illustration. Also, I want to acknowledge Melinda Copp, the Writer's Sherpa, for her professional editorial services (2008).
Several years ago, while doing research for a story that was to be about the adventures of two little doves, I became inspired by the true story of Cher Ami, the carrier pigeon that saved a lost battalion in World War I. Documents obtained from the U.S. National Archives revealed that many birds distinguished themselves in the American Army on the front, an excerpt of which is provided at the end of the story.
World War I, the war that was to end all wars, killed over nine million soldiers, collapsed four dynasties, and transformed the boundaries of central and western Europe. Perhaps this story will inspire readers to review world history, as it may provide a better understanding of modern wars.
The terms pigeons and doves are used interchangeably, and are the same species. They were domesticated hundreds of years ago for their intelligence services. They mate for life, so it is not surprising that in ancient times, some trainers would hold families in the lofts to insure the message carriers would return. During the Great War, the use of wireless transmitters, telegraph services, and telephone equipment often proved unreliable, leaving thousands of troops stranded with no hope. As a result, the legend of the carrier pigeons lives on with the maxim â when all else failed.
It was a pleasure to write the story of
and perhaps it will reunite the kindred spirit of readers with the invisible bond that exists between man and animals. It is a privilege to help preserve the historical legacy of the intelligence services of the carrier pigeons, and to support all dedicated bird advocates in their efforts to secure a protective environment for these wonderful birds.
Long ago in the land of Bosnia, a band of young men, along with a nineteen-year-old student named Gavrilo Princip, gathered to discuss their resentment of the upcoming visit of Archduke Ferdinand to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia. Unresolved conflicts arising out of hatred, humiliation, and revenge had led to political unrest in the land of the Balkans. Austro-Hungary had invaded Bosnia years earlier and as heir to its throne, his assassination would send a message loud and clear to the Austro-Hungarian Empire that Bosnia wanted its independence. On June 28, 1914, as the Archduke's car traveled from the railroad station to the Town Hall in Sarajevo, Serbian Nationalist Gavrilo Princip fatally wounded Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie.
Allegations that the assassin was aided by members of the Serbian Society, Austro-Hungary gave Serbia an ultimatum on July 3, 1914: That their own officials would be permitted to enter their country to capture and punish those involved in the assassination, and they wanted a reply within forty-eight hours. Serbia perceived this demand as a threat to their independence. Just two minutes away from the forty-eight-hour timeframe, Serbia sent a reply that it would accept all demands except one. Officials from Austro-Hungary would not be permitted to come into their country. The Foreign Minister of Austro-Hungary stated that the reply was unsatisfactory, and declared war on Serbia.
In the early part of the twentieth century, there were peace conferences held in The Hague (International Court of Justice/Netherlands), but there never was an organization set up to handle disputes between countries, so fearful countries would form alliances with other countries, but they had only maintained bitter peace. Austro-Hungary, Germany and Italy formed an Alliance, and France, Russia and Great Britain had previously formed a Triple Entente. As a patron of the Balkan nationalist movement, Russia began mobilizing its army against the advice of both Germany and Great Britain. They suggested Russia allow the two countries to come to a peaceful resolution, but it was too late. In those days, mobilization was almost the same as declaring war.
Germany then declared war on Russia and France; France and Great Britain declared war on Germany and Austro-Hungary. With Italy remaining neutral, Germany and Austro-Hungary became known as the Central Powers. Belgium's neutrality was guaranteed in 1839 by the Treaty of London. However, Germany demanded the right to passage, and invaded Belgium on August 4, 1914.
And so, declarations of The Great War would echo in Europe, Asia and throughout the world, known today as World War I.
Doves have long been known for their role as message
carriers, but their distinguishable service in World War I
will mark the end of an era gone by as they carry
their legacy into the twentieth century.
In the Kingdom of Belgium out of the Valley of the Ardennes, there lives a legend among the doves. His name was Clovis.
The story begins with his family, the Skybirds, one morning in May, 1914, just weeks before Clovis hatched. Along with the one hundred migrating pigeons, doves, and grouse, his family gathered for their long awaited journey from the southwest region of France to the little country of Belgium.
There were several leaders among their regimented flight. The families of Skybird, Flanders, Rock Dove, and Ghent lined up first in formation. Next were the Grouse families of Bruges, Willow, and
Norder, followed by the Dove Roufous, Woodpigeon, and Laughing Dove families.
Visions of their homeland filled their heads as the birds followed their leaders into the blue meadows of the sky, where whispers in the wind did not carry voices from the minds of men. For they will find themselves in a land where the war of wars will begin, a place that will become their final destination ~ Doveland.
Sea billows swell in their splendor before bursting along the Atlantic coastline, while clouds paint a spectacular band of white woven ribbons across the sky like an endless reflection of the sea below connecting its frothy whitecaps along one global shore. The westerly winds shuffled the fair-weather clouds, scattering them about like mounds of cotton candy, saturated with melting crystals that lightly brushed across their dancing wings.
Their journey was long and peaceful. Sometime in the afternoon, the flock began their traditional descent as they approached the border of Belgium. The pigeons and doves believed that the shadows in the water beneath them were reflections of the spirits of their forefathers traveling with them to their beloved
homeland. With outstretched wings, they glided above the Meuse River toward the confluence of the Semois River, a tributary that flows down the mountains from the east. Maintaining their tradition, the flock followed the whimsical path of the Semois River toward the Belgium province of Luxembourg. The rugged green forests of the Valley of the Ardennes heightened their anticipation for arrival with the familiar sweet scent of white heather and hyacinth flowers that filled the air.
The pigeons and doves thrived on the large oak trees with plentiful smooth non-bristle-tipped leaves that mature with little acorns full of sweet tasting seeds. The bountiful beech trees made a sturdy place for their nestlings with their sprouting limbs enhanced by shrub-like blue-green leaves that turn a glowing copper color in autumn.
On its journey downstream from Arlon Springs, the Semois River enters a plateau in the valley where a portion of the river makes a short detour around a perennial forest garden known as the trees of Doveland. This enchanted island provided the bird
community with an abundance of food and shelter during their mating season that would help insure the survival of their young.
The flock announced its arrival with a joyful rush of wing flapping as they landed among the trees around the ground center of the threshold. This formation provided a circular spiral to create a stronghold against their most formidable predator â the hawks.
For across the stream in the deep dark forests around them lurked the fiercest hunter in the valley. His ample dark feathers embraced his large body, and his head quite distinctive with a broad mustache that stood out against his white throat, cheeks, and breast. The birds called him Smokejack because he would emerge out of the smoky haze that lingered above the river in the early morning twilight and strike without warning. Their powerful strength as hunters invoked such paralyzing fear among the pigeons and doves that they had become easy prey.
The ground center of the threshold was reserved for social activities where they gathered to visit, and for special occasions like the upcoming courtship ceremony. The coniferous evergreen skyscrapers of the forest endowed the ground center with a
sheltering canopy, cones with nutlike seeds, and pine needles that provided ground cover for drainage during the rainfall season.
The pigeons and doves immediately began building their new nests among the numerous trees, while the grouse families prepared their nests with large sticks and strong twigs among the rough grasses on the forest floor. Some families shared in the duties of gathering the materials while others constructed the nests. To prepare for the upcoming ceremony, each family would also assist in the decoration of the ground center, and provide food for the sumptuous feast.
Because pigeons and doves mate for life, the upcoming celebration was a major event. Although the pigeons and doves were at liberty to pick and choose their own mates, parents sometimes encouraged their sons and daughters to mate with certain families. While Skybird, and his son, Antwerp, were gathering fountains of ferns, they discussed the upcoming ceremony. He urged his son to choose Tawney as his mate, insisting she was the most beautiful and regal bird in the community.
“No, father,” he replied hastily, “I have already chosen my mate. Her name is Ringdove.”
“You do not wish to please me and your mother, and mate with Tawney, the daughter of my best friend, Ghent?”
“Would you and mother not wish to please me and allow me to mate with my best friend?” retorted Antwerp, as he departed from his father and returned to the ground center alone. As with all sons, Antwerp wanted his father to be proud of him. The upcoming celebration was supposed to be a joyful one, but he felt an unfair sting of obligation to his father. Arriving at the ground center, Antwerp dropped the ferns to the ground and remained there for a few moments, motionless.
Meanwhile, the plot between the two fathers continued. Ghent had taken his daughter, Tawney into the woods where they made several trips layering the leafy bed of the ground center with twigs of berries. Ghent began to praise his friend's son.
“I hope you have noticed that Antwerp would be your best choice for a mate.”
“Father, you know I love Hunter. Nothing you say is going to change my mind.”
“Mating with the future leader means you move up in a family tree.”
“I'm not mating with a branch, father.”
“Please daughter, it has already been arranged!”
Tawney broke away from her father with a twig of berries for the celebration. Tawney's plumage was a soft pearl gray with a white fluffy covert, and a radiant pink color circled her sparkling eyes. If a beauty contest was held, she would certainly win. But her eyes were not sparkling when she arrived at the ground center near Antwerp, where unspoken words were exchanged between them through the same empty gaze.
Meanwhile, more food began arriving from the forest for the celebration. Grouse Bruges and his mate, Combs, favored the fruits of the whortleberries and blueberries, which they found in the woods on low lying shrubs with rosy flowers tinged with green. The family of Flanders gathered fountains of rolling vines and summer
sweet azaleas to cover the woody trellis provided by the families of Norder and Willow. This shared endeavor will form an archway through which each pair of birds must pass during the mating ritual.