I set off to return once again to Charles Heitzman's magnificent estate located on 3806 Chenoweth Run Road in Jeffersontown, Ky. I felt emotional about making the drive to my old friend's home not knowing what to expect. As I came through Jeffersontown I noted how much it had changed and grown and nothing about all the progress lifted my spirit. It was a beautiful fall day with the trees beginning to turn and I could remember Heitzman on days such as this, always having visitors at his lofts.
It wasn't long before I was going over a hill into a countryside area that I immediately recognized the famous white painted arched bridge lead over a creek and up a small hill into a shaded wooded area where Heitzman's home once stood. I don't know how many years it has been since I had seen the place but my heart leaped when I could see it was still all there and intact and in good condition.
I parked my van in the circular driveway and knocked on the front door. I saw a large woman rush off into another section of the house and she never came to the door. I knocked several times more and did not know what to make of it. I supposed she was afraid as the home is situated in a somewhat countryside-rural area and who knows what can happen meeting strangers in this day and time. I walked around to the back of the house and also knocked on the door. But again no person came to the door.
While pausing there, I couldn't help but notice the old bell still there near the back entrance. So many times Heitzman's wife used to ring this bell for us to come in from the lofts, wash out hands and have a light meal. Those were such special moments and the old bell brought it all back alive for me; I wanted to ring it just one more time but left it alone leaving silence to prevail.
I looked up past the back of the house toward the famous hill that Heitzman once called "Cedar Point." There were a few trees and a couple of smaller cedars but nothing of the stately manner that Heitzman once maintained. The cedars were basically all gone as were all of the 41 lofts Heitzman once had. I stopped to photograph one of the trails-paths Heitzman had made many years ago that once led to all his lofts on the lower end of his estate; the ones closer down to the wooded ravine. It was there where he had once concerted a large doll house he had given to his daughter into a special loft reserved only for one pair of breeders; it was a lonely path now leading only to nothing save the woods. I again paused to remember how many great times he and I had walked along that walk way--it was very hard to think of it all and now realize that nothing was there-As though nothing ever had been there.
. On the big hill where his magnificent main racing loft once stood--the icon of all racing lofts in America-- there was nothing but a hillside with mowed grass. I took a photo there as well remembering a photo I once took there of Heitzman and I standing in the exact spot--then I was using my faithful 35 MM Pentax with its timed-release shutter. The same camera having photographed so many hundreds of his finest racers. That photo of Heitzman and me in front of his main racing loft today has oddly become famous and is in the AU Museum in Oklahoma.
I walked over to where his guest home-pigeon library once stood. Nothing was there except for some poured concrete once being the foundation floor for his specially glazed-block building having once been that library. I knelt down there for a moment and placed my hand over an area of grass near the foundation; now, the unmarked graves of Heat Wave, Head Wind and others as I knew exactly where they were buried. It was hard for me to see just that concrete and nothing else. Thousands of the greatest racing pigeon fliers had been in that library as well as movie stars such as Andy Devineg and celebrities such as Kentucky Derby winner's trainer, Rex Ellsworth. Now, there is a new modern house very close to where it once stood and also an ugly hedge. I looked over and back towards the field going on farther away and also noted more concrete in the field and knew that was where his 2 story concrete block loft once stood; the same loft where Heitzman once fell some ten feet injuring himself. I looked at the place where he had fallen and could think nothing but of that day. And farther on out in that field I saw the remains of the only loft still standing. But no person would ever have known this except me as now it looks like an old tool shed. Much of it torn away and modified; it was once Heitzman's secret and magnificent loft where he kept birds primarily going to Japan, usually beautiful powder silver bars Sions with dark eyes.; I photographed it as well continuing to remember how that oft once looked, a futuristic showcase on the modern breeding loft.
I stood where the main racing loft once was and also photographed Heitzman's home--the back of it. And of all the things that I was so happy to see remaining was the great tulip poplar tree that once stood between Heitzman's library and the stock loft. The great tree was still there and just beginning to ripen its leaves with the oncoming of another time period of fall. I remembered one summer afternoon as Heitzman and I sat in chairs outside of his library watching his birds and noting many of them in the limbs of that tree. He said to me "Robbie, my smart ones stay in the shade of that tree on hot days." We both laughed.
It was a horrible experience to return but I knew deep inside that I had to pay one last pilgrimage and see for myself what had happened to the greatest racing pigeon flier and breeder and representative of racing pigeons that ever lived in the USA. What I saw was a realization of what befalls all of us in the end, no matter how great or how unknown.
I rang that old bell one more time in my mind and then I slowly walked back to my van and drove off.
I will never return again.