I suppose every old fancier owns one pigeon in his heart that will never be forgotten, for me it is my long gone friend, "Peg Leg."
Peg leg never owned a band.
He didn't need one.
It was back in the early 60's.The Beatles were prepping for their invasion. I had
long been in love with pigeons as they soared free all over the bridge that happened to be, well, my front yard. It was an awesome, arching, lime-colored steel dinosaur spanning 60' over The Kentucky River. I was already engaging many fanciers writing them every day. One was John McQuithy of Jonesboro, Indiana. We corresponded several times a week and he sent me photographs of his tiny loft. In that loft he had bald-headed rollers and racing pigeons. One of the birds he had was a blue bar cock bred by Roy Worether from St. Louis Its name was "Horether" in honor of its breeder.
I believed it to be the most magnificent creature on earth.
It whispered sweet nothings.
John sent me a list of birds that he would sell.
Horether was on it.
Twenty-five million, to me.
My poor home's income derived from my father--he sold fruit and vegetables on
A small street in eastern Kentucky.
So very much.
I spoke of Horether to my grandfather, "Daddy Mack."
He loved me more than anyone.
He was always listening.
He owned the old apartment that I lived in; it was located over top the motion picture theater that he also owned; that theater had evolved from a livery stable to be my real home; mom sold tickets there.
A few days went by and Daddy Mack called me into the ticket booth and shut the door. He looked down at me and gave that certain small smile. Then he proceeded to count out twenty-five one dollar bills and asked mom to buy Horether. She agreed, adding that she was also going to buy a mate for him, a smokey colored hen that McQuithy had listed for $5.00.
She loved me, too.
A couple of weeks later Daddy Mack and I went to the railway station in Ravenna, Kentucky to pick up the pair.
Oh how the sun shined bright on my old Kentucky home.
It was the happiest day of my life.
I studied that blue bar, he was blue gold owning ruby eyes; ah-h-h...Sion, Bastin and Greenshield blended to genetic perfection; his pedigree owned a father having flown 500
I put the pair together and a year later bought some more racers from McQuithy. One was AU-63-GRC-368 a small, dark blue check hen. She escaped three times and always flew back to him. During this period. I had been fortunate enough to meet the legendary pigeon racer, Mr.Charles Heitzman, Jeffersontown, Kentucky. He treated me like his grandson, giving me birds as well, sharing remarks about me with my grandfather.
Those Heitzman Sions were so special.
But nothing nearly as so as was my grandfather or Heitzman..
Horether and the smokey hen disappeared around my pitifully constructed lofts but I fretted little as the Heitzman birds owned my attention. One of the birds that Horether and the smoky hen had raised was a blue check cock. He really wasn't much to look at and even worse in the hand. Boney and common. I had failed to band him and he spent as much time flying around with the bridge pigeons as he did around my loft. One day I found him struggling behind my loft with a steel trap clamped down on his leg. I had set that trap to catch rats that were tunneling into one of my lowly lofts. I took the trap off of the blue check and put him in a cage. He couldn't stand at first but eventually reached a point where he could limp.
I started calling him, "Peg Leg."
Daddy Mack's theater was made out of old clay bricks and charcoal and the mortar
in between the bricks that he had used in transposing a livery stable into a theater owned a certain sandy texture in its composition.
Peg Leg loved the stuff.
Almost every day I would see him fly down onto the ground and walk over to the the wall of the theater and peck furiously at a particular spot where a few bricks were already missing offering an array of the special grit
Peg Leg and I grew a little older and I found myself a freshman in college swimming on one of the best swim teams in the United States. Almost all of the swimmers on my team were from out of state, including several from Florida. We swam 40 hours a week for coach Don Combs. He was a loud, powerful person with a dynamic personality. His father was Earle Combs, Kentucky's famous Hall Of Famer in Baseball; Earle played for the NY Yankees and batted on "Murdrer's Row" with team mates Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig
During one Christmas break three of my Florida team mates said they were going home and would be back in two weeks. I asked them if they would consider taking three of my homing pigeons and letting them go along their journey. Since the birds were extreme late hatches and out of old Peg Leg I considered them worthless. I asked that they be set loose some 150 miles away in Knoxville.
It was snowing when I saw one of the young pigeons return two days later. I was surprised to see the blue check as it had never been tossed and was only ten weeks old. He eventually went into the small cage I had outside where he had been born.
When the Florida swimmers returned and while we were dressing out in the locker room one of the guys asked me if any of my birds had come home.
"Yeah," I said. "One."
For a few seconds there was a real hush in the locker room. "You got a bird?" again asked one of them.
"Yeah, a little blue check. just a baby."
"No Sweat, I don't know how to tell you this but we forgot that we had those pigeons. We were between Macon and the Florida line before we remembered we had them. That's where we let them go. It was over 400 miles away."
That winter my mind couldn't get over the feat of the little pigeon. More importantly, who its parents were. When spring arrived I mated Peg Leg right back to the same hen. I sent one of the birds to THE TWIN CITY GOLD BAND FUTURITY, my handler was Louie DeMao. Before the race I got everyone on my swim team to pool $270. At the end of the day of the race Louie called me to relay that my Peg Leg baby was 1st Out Of Area and Fourth Overall and that it had totally cleaned out all the pool $ and set a new $ winning record for the state.
My team mates then began calling me "Birdie." After giving each one of them their 10-1 return back on their investment they were anxious to bet on Peg Leg's babies once again.
Over the next few year's Peg Leg babies dominated the distance races that I placed them in with The Lexington Racing Pigeon Club winning the 500 Mile Heitzman Trophy and the 300 LKY Futurity and average speed. Besides that, they won the Conrad Mahr Futurity, Blackhawk Futurity, a futurity in New Orleans, Waldo Hotchkiss Futurity with Waldo flying my one entry and many other races throughout the United States. No matter who I mated him to his babies flew grand. One time one hen of his flew back from 500 miles with both legs broken and laid there in the grass waiting for me to pick her up.
When I moved two miles away to Ravenna, Kentucky I brought Peg Leg with me. He settled quickly. Many times I would see him back atop The Irvine Bridge or where my old loft had once been. I would go back there and see him at his familiar spot eating that grit in the wall of my grandfather's theater. As time went on I noticed he would sometime bring other racing pigeons I owned with him to his grit hole.
Fanciers all over the USA wanted Peg Leg's blood. Every time I went to the National Show in White Plains, NY I would take some of his babies and they would sell as fast as I would place them on display. I would earn enough money from the sales to take my family to Florida on vacation the following summer. James Carbone, Cherry Hills, NJ, a close friend of Frank Sinatra's, having grown up with Sinatra in Hoboken, was one of them.
When Peg Leg died I buried him close to the place where he had been born. It remains such an insignificant spot on this earth.
But not for me.
I thought back to when he seemed insignificant.
I love the idea of luck.
What would life be without it?
That's what Peg Leg was all about.
Napoleon selected his officers based on luck.
All the girl pigeons loved Peg Leg..
He was Errol Flynn debonair.
He could talk, smile, fight and do whatever.
Eagles had nothing on him.
Where did he come from?
My dream, I suppose.