When she was born she was all alone in the nest as the egg beside her had failed to hatch.
She could barely move after pecking her way free of her egg, being all but a small yellow-haired, blob with half-shut eyes; she minutely moved in exploration using her new found senses to measure an even newer existence. I picked her up and saw that she was healthy and put her back down. Her mother wing-slapped my hand. How dare me for having had the nerve to disturb her; that was her baby and she made certain I knew it.
A week later I checked on the baby. It had grown almost twice in size. Now, her eyes were open and she was oddly aware that I was near. She looked at me and I, her. We were so different and yet so strangely alike.Pigeons are that way, you know.
Two days later I placed a band over her leg. It was a band that told what year she was born and who she belonged to. I felt it was an honor to be using the "KY" bands that I did as they had always been reserved strictly for my old friend, Charles Heitzman. Now that he had been long dead I thought it was important that I somehow kept his memory alive.
The little bird began to have feathers and you could see that she was going to be a blue bar with white flights and white feathers among her head and face. She was tame and when I daily checked on her she began to show me her spirit as she would peck at me and flap her little wings in defiance..
Her father was a strong silver cock with the longest wings of any bird I owned. All of his brothers and sisters were good racers and I suspected their blood came more from their silver bar mom than their red check father. Her mother was a blue bar that had flown in a prestigious one loft race in Minnesota. She had done very well as she gotten better as the races got longer, finally finishing third out of 600 birds in the last race of 350 miles. She was a strong pigeon with short, rounded wings. I thought if I could improve that wing structure than I would have a baby even better than her. And that's why she had been placed with the silver cock.
The baby was a late hatch and beautiful. And my partner with the pigeons said that we should save her and fly her with the birds next year. I agreed.
The following spring she mated with the only pigeon in our lofts that owned so much white color. Actually, the bird was a full Sion and its color was a black saddle. It was odd as he had been born from two pigeons that were a mealy and a blue check. He was a beautiful pigeon and his nest-mate had flown well in The Gulf Coast Classic in Florida. My loft partner and I decided to leave the pair together. He was interested in the colors they would produce and I was interested in their racing blood being mixed together.
As summer approached the beautiful black saddle cock was caught in midair by a cooper hawk while flying around the lofts. At the time there were two of his babies in the nest. His mate, the blue bar white flight splash hen, took care of them and raised them up by herself. The two babies were a perfect blend of their parents. Both were blue bar saddles and both owned the best physical properties of their parents; they owned dark eyes like her and were smart..
Came September and we began to train all the young birds. And with them we began training the blue bar white flight splash hen. On the first toss we took them 20 miles and a cooper's hawk hit into them and scattered the birds coming home. The next week we took them 40 miles. It was a beautiful day and just as we got home my loft partner, John, and I watched as a pigeon circled overhead. We both knew who it was, that late hatch hen. She had come alone in front of 300 pigeons. She made the most beautiful wide swoop around our lofts, gliding in such a way as you knew she was happy and enjoying being the first one home.
And just as she was starting to glide in for a landing a coopers hawk came out of the woods and closed in behind her. She saw the hawk and did all she could to out fly him. She twisted in flight in one direction and the hawk did the same. She dived down and he did the same. Each time the hawk closed the gap.
And then he got her.
He flew off with her and disappeared in the distance.
I sat there a long while as the other birds came in. At the end of the day almost all of them were back in the loft.
Except the first one that came home.
I couldn't help but think of her all that night and to this moment still.
Fortunately, we still have her two sons that she raised.
Maybe they will raise a baby that was like her.
And maybe, when she comes back it will be through them.
All racing men experience this. But still we go on...