I was 12 years old in 1962. I was watching either a documentary, or maybe it was a Walt Disney T.V. show, either way, it was about pigeons. There was this boy in a wheelchair who raised homing pigeons. I can’t remember the name of the program, but by the time it was over, I was hooked, I absolutely had to have pigeons.
My father thought it was a great idea. Not so much with my mother. In those days, in Windsor Ontario, everyone did the laundry in the basement and hung the cloths out on the line to dry. If a bird dropped a turd on someones clean shirts then the guy who had pigeons was to blame. Granted, there were a lot of pigeon fanciers in the area in those times, but, I argued, don’t all birds crap; to place the entire weight on the poor pigeon’s butt didn’t seem fair.
I was persistent, I couldn’t understand how anyone could go through life without a loft of beautiful cooing birds in the back yard.
The old timers, who I visited on a regular basis told me to tell my mother that pigeons can’t poop when in flight. This is not true, but mothers for generations were told of this phenomena .
My mother, who I don’t think fell for it, but nevertheless relented, with conditions. My birds were never to be let out on wash days, anyones wash days. The last thing mom wanted was to find 40 or 50 raging woman standing on the front lawn screaming for my blood. I certainly didn’t want that either, I mean, with a younger brother and sister who rarely got into any trouble at all, mommy dear would likely throw me into the mobs claws in a heart beat. My shredded torso would be much easier to live with than a neighbourhood scandal.
So, with the permission of the powers to be, I set forth to build a loft. The guys and me would search the alleys for scrap wood and the pile of lumber in the yard was growing. Then. as if a sign from God, St. Josephs church started building their expansion. I never seen so much wood. Two by fours, clean new sheets of plywood, oh it was a glorious sight to behold.
Under the cover of darkness, one by one, the gang and I dragged the pieces home. It’s kind of funny how adults actually ignore a bunch of 12 year olds hauling lumber down the alleys. I was sure to strongly suggest to each guy in the gang that this is to be kept a secret, and I mean not even to be brought up in confession with Father Campbell. I know the confessional is sacred but the wood was the property of the church, so why rock the boat, right. Besides, I was sure it was God Himself who made this miraculous event possible.
Early every morning, to the annoyance of those who worked the midnight shift at Fords, I would be out back hammering away at my loft. Being 12 my carpentry skills were limited , to say the least. Eventually, my father stepped in to do the job right. I remember clearly, him looking over this pile of brand new plywood sheets. “Should I ask where this wood came from?” he said.
“Over there” I answered pointing in the direction of St. Joseph church.
He told me not to bring anymore home, the loft would have to be built from whatever wood was here. Turned out real nice too except it was only high enough for me to barely stand up in and I was 5 foot on my tippy toes.
To finish the inside with nest boxes and perches, pops told me to get a few more pieces of scrap wood. He looked me right in the eye and repeated “Scrap wood.” The message was clear. Stay away from the church. That night I was off down the alley and in a few hours came back with enough wood to finish the job.
The next morning was a Saturday and as dad was putting the final touches on, I seen Mr. Naylor coming down the alley. I quietly slipped away to around the side of the house as he confronted my father.
“It seems” he said ” That someone tore apart my garbage can stand last night.” He looked over the work being done and pointed out that his house address was painted, as clear as the red on my dads face, on the newly build loft door.
” I’m pretty sure it was young Jackie. Wouldn’t you agree?” He asked my father. Apparently, the old man agreed and paid Mr. Naylor twenty dollars.
A short shrill whistle brought me out of hiding and after apologizing to Mr. Naylor I was sent to fetch the old man a beer. He just wanted me out of there , he could yell at me all day and night, but he wasn’t about to let someone else lecture to me.
My allowance was held back for a few weeks, which meant I got the better of the deal, since my weekly income was only fifty cents. Pops also fronted me one dollar to buy the first pair of birds.
With a whole buck in my hands I didn’t waste any time. I rode Trigger (my CCM bicycle) over to a man’s house that kept many breeds of pigeons and had plenty for sale. I took my time , this was exciting stuff, finally selecting a beautiful pair of mealy Roller Pigeons.
My real love was the Homing pigeon, but the older birds will fly home and I didn’t have the room or patience for raising and waiting on youngsters.
Rollers lack the Homing instinct that racing Homers have. They will return to their home loft from a few miles but keeping them prisoners for about two weeks will take care of that. I wanted to watch them fly, that’s what it was all about for me.
I’ll leave you here friends as I like to stay under a thousand words. In part two I write of about the time I was accused of stealing another fanciers pigeons. I was innocent, I had my own birds and wouldn’t sneak into another’s loft in the wee hours of morning and……. wait, I’m going to stop here before I incriminate myself.
Thanks for reading, Jack
Keep the faith friends, it get’s better. it always does.