Pigeon Wars

Pigeon fancier like my father before me ....
by JR Hager II....I was raised to love these birds. Much to the chagrin of my mother and to his as well, and certain neighbors bent on controlling, we both, in a days time, in our preteens, gathered together a bunch of wood planks, two by fours or whatever came close, and chicken wire, in our back yards and commenced to build a structure to house our birds. The final result may have looked like a homeless shelter or worse, an eyesore for our moms to bare, but to us it resembled nothing of a kind. It was our precious coup for our beloved pigeons. Our flight hanger for our feathered acrobats.

Pigeons that we picked up from other fanciers or caught at the nearest park or under a bridge, or given to us, became very dear, no matter what the warning was. They had more to offer us than a bunch of little'ol lice. (tobacco stems instead of straw did the trick) And they had so much more value and redeeming qualities to us, that the occasional shit on our shoulder, on our shoes, our head, or on our window shield; was just a minor byproduct compared to all the beauty these winged creatures poses. But that wasn't the case for some people. -My dad had a neighbor that complained that the acid from their droppings were eating into her roof and had caused a leak in the roof. And get this, Dad's coup was scarcely up a year, and he had less than five birds. -I had a neighbor, so un-neighborly, that complained about the smell, and they lived two blocks away. And then there was one that complained the noise kept him up. And get this; I lived in the city at the time, and he worked at night. Anyway, to us, and those fanciers like us, these birds were certainly not what they were called, by others who saw them as a menace; as 'rats with wings.'

Pigeons have always gotten a 'bum-rap'...

...and I'm not sure the reason why; lice are more prevalent in dirty people than they are pigeons, or any bird. The first time I became aware of lice was, years later, on Sarah's, my daughters head; and she got them at school, and not from her Dads coup; apartments aren't very conducive to raising pigeons, but I tried anyway when she was a baby. At the time we lived in a 'high-rise' in downtown Atlanta. An ideal situation for this hobby, you might think, and so did I.

One day I got 'the calling' It has been 20 years since I had pigeons, and so I planned my strategy. Knowing full well the 'land lady' wouldn't appreciate my fine aesthetic pleasures of raising pigeons so I became a smuggler for a day. I bought a 25lb bag of regular bird seed and used my camera bag, minus the equipment, to carry it. Then I found four small burlap bags I decided to use to carry the birds more securely inside my camera bag so they didn't flutter or coo too much and get me busted when I walked through the lobby. I had a cardboard box ready to hold them on the porch until I could put together a small coup. Then I made my way to the nearest park which was called Piedmont Park.

I had noticed thousands of them ....

at the park on prior days and have enjoyed watching them circle the sky just as Dad and I have done together. But on that day I saw only one or two in the air. So instead of giving up and planning another day, I happen to follow them to see where they would land. Sure enough, after I walked further into the park, I noticed where all of them have went;some people were feeding them. I knew they didn't have enough food to satisfy the birds, so I found a clearing in the grass, poured the whole bag out in front of me, and waited.

I didn't think I had to wait long. I remembered when I had the coup of my youth; when I poured the feed in their container they almost immediately stopped whatever they were doing and flew home. And it really didn't matter how far up they were in the air; they dove out of the sky like there was a falcon on their tail, to get to the grain. And one thing I knew for sure, they'd rather have what I was offering than the stale bleached white bread those folks were giving them. But before those birds had time to respond, there were ones that were on their way to the bread feeders like the ones I followed. They must have given me the 'double take' when they flew over, because they didn't even bother with their comrades fighting over the bread, and fell out of the sky for my mound of seed instead. Soon all of them were there, and as it seemed; all pigeons from a hundred mile radius were there in front of me on the seed, and on me. I had no idea it would be so easy. I could pick and choose as I like. I remember there were allot of crippled birds. Thinking back; most if not all probably never saw or tasted real grain, until I arrived in their lives.

These street birds, mostly blue gray and black with a short beak; Dad and I called Corneys. They may have been a lower class bird, but they still had the ware-with-all to navigate home just as does the highest class, and the largest of Pigeons; the Homer. I've only had the pleasure of owning a couple of these birds, and enjoyed taking them miles away and releasing them; finding, when I got back, that they had beaten me home and were waiting in the coup for me. They looked at me as if to say, "where have you been?"

Yes, I safely made it through the lobby ....

with only a few coos in the elevator on the way up to the 20th floor; luckily there wasn't anybody else in it with us at the time. And the land lady was busy in her office, I noticed. All went well, at least for awhile.

I had to keep the four birds in the box, I had mentioned, longer than I thought because the hardware store wasn't able to sell me just a little chicken wire, they had to sell a large roll of it, and there was no way I'd get that through the lobby. They'd know I was up to something that was against their rules and regulations. But on the bright side; the birds never ate better during their three week stay in the box. (three weeks is the length of time it takes for pigeons to become acclimated to their new home, and will return there) So, in essence, the porch became my coup. My last coup. And it didn't last much longer than those three weeks.

The guy I mentioned that couldn't sleep during the day because of the 'racket' my birds were making, squealed to the land lady. She told me to stop feeding the birds and added, looking at Sarah in my arms, "they carry germs and diseases." I said OK, but didn't listen, we enjoyed watching them. Then about a month later, the guy must have been still complaining, the land lady had sent up the cleaning crew while we were away and confiscated the bird seed. And not only that, which really pissed me off to high heaven; not only did they come in our apartment while we were gone, they spread some stuff on our railing so the birds would walk in it. This stuff, as I found out, had a percentage of something in it that acted like battery acid. And get this; the birds feet, after walking in it, will start to burn and it will eventually eat the birds feet away. Isn't that special? I must admit, it was the first time I ever referred to a woman with these pretty harsh words, under my breath.

But I still say, "hey, leave the pigeons alone, they are just doin there 'bird thing.' And if one would look at just what there 'bird thing' is, and you don't have to get too close to the coup, to become absolutely amazed at what these beauties can do. And one breed of pigeon that I thoroughly enjoyed watching, the one pictured on my hand above, is the Roller or Tumbler. Very strange bird.


G.I. JOE's Dicken Medal citation reads, "For prompt delivery of a message to XII Air Support Command, thereby preventing the bombing of advanced elements 56th.

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