Only 12 years old and I had everything a guy could wish for. I owned a CCM bicycle I called Trigger, a beagle dog named Banjo, a pigeon loft and a few pair of Birmingham Roller pigeons. What else could a guy want, I thought.
Every day, weather permitting, I would fly the birds for an hour in the morning and then later that evening. It was fun to watch the birds do back flips in mid-air. A good Roller could do seven or eight or more in a row. Selective breeding for hundreds of years developed this trait. A lot of guys in the area had this breed of pigeon.
Once a week or so I’d make my rounds visiting with the other fanciers. There was two guys Paul and Huey , older teens, who raised Homers. They never invited me into the yard but didn’t object to me leaning on the fence admiring their birds as they circle the loft at break neck speeds.
Another Homer guy , an older man who always seem to have a bottle of whiskey near by, would let me watch his birds from across the street but if I came too close he’d yell profanities my way. Homer men seemed to think you were going to find out their secrets for racing and were suspicious. There were exceptions of course. Mr Hampton was one. He was a real gentlemen, white-haired , rugged face and soft-spoken, I admired him. He would often invite me into his loft and point out his best birds. I always left in awe how he knew every bird and their lineage back several generations. He gave me several nice pigeons.
For the most part, Fancy pigeon breeders were much more open to kids hanging around. One man, Soo Hong, was my all time favorite pigeon man. His Rollers were not only great performers but the birds were as close to the Standard as could be. They looked just like the pictures in the books. He was a master breeder and gave me many top quality pigeons. Many years later when Mr. Hong died he was buried from the funeral home that I worked at. We released his birds at the cemetery and watched them fly off towards home. I felt that he would like that. I still see his wife and son from time to time.
One day on my way to visit some coops. I took a short cut down an alley. I came across a loft I didn’t know about and the owner, a teenage kid, was cleaning his loft. He invited me in and showed off his well made and very clean loft. I thanked him for the time and continued on.
A few days later this guy shows up at my house with his father claiming I stole some of his pigeons. He pushed me around, a mistake on his part, and searched my loft while his father stood vigilant.
They found nothing ,of course, and left me with a warning to stay away from his place. I was more angry with myself for leaving Banjo in the basement ;they would have never got into the yard if he was out.
That whole day and the next I stewed over the event. Finally, I came to the conclusion that I was getting even. Being only twelve I envisioned swooping into his bedroom window and slapping the hell of the jerk. Instead, I enlisted the help of a cousin and together we sneaked through the alley in the wee hours under the cover of darkness. We even dressed in dark clothing. The loft door had a lock on it now, so I had to run home, about ten blocks away, and fetch a hammer.
While my cousin kept a close eye on the house I hammered away at the lock. Not exactly international jewel thief’s here. The lock eventually gave out and we were in. I stuffed about half a dozen birds into a large paper bag and escaped undetected.
I hid the birds in a friend’s garage. The next morning the kid came around, by himself this time. He didn’t dare hop the fence with Banjo there growling at him but I opened my loft door wide letting he see inside. I still remember him riding off, chin quivering and close to tears. I actually felt bad for him. I knew he liked his birds the same as I did.
I went over to Paul’s, where the birds were, and released them. I found out later that every one of them returned home. I figured we were even now and never bothered with that guy again.
Another bright idea of mine was to wire off the birds on one side of the loft and put a cot on the other side so I could sleep out there in the summer.
All was well until I shared a few nights with an older woman who ran away from home. She was thirteen, almost fourteen. I was making a lot of noise blowing a horn, the kind they use at hockey games, and a neighbour called the police. The police officer, a neighbour, recognized the runaway and took us to police headquarters. When the old man came to get me, about two in the morning, he looked at Donna, my loft room-mate, and asked me if I thought her mother would like to sleep out.
The next morning pops got me up early and told me as punishment, I had to paint the eavesdroughts.
What I learned from that day was to only keep the feathered kind of birds in my coop. Or at the very least, get rid of that blasted horn.
But all in all, pigeons to this day have been a great relaxing hobby for me. It’s too bad that pigeons and boys are a thing of the past. Even the racing pigeon sport is dying world wide. It’s a faster electronic times and there’s no going back.
Thanks for reading my blog. Jack
Keep the faith friends, it gets better, it always does.