The Ohio-Penn Federation was organized in 1992, by a "committee of six" pigeon racing free-thinkers, coming together from seven different combines in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York, to establish a "great race" that promised national recognition for winners, fierce competition, and economies of scale to reduce shipping costs. The original group consisted of Bill Gallik, Harry Boos, Jim Timmons, Jack Welling, Sam Badger, and Jim Hazek. "At the time, our wish was to establish a pre-eminent 500 mile race with bird entry that would exceed 1000 birds, and grow in prominence, as had the New England Open, and other races in Europe", said founding Federation Secretary Harry Boos.
Today, knowing that some clubs cannot peaceably get even five members to agree on a simple seasonal racing schedule, it is testimony to the "committee’s" uncanny ability to find common purpose that this race grew to nearly 200 lofts, with 2500 birds competing, at its peak in 1996. The American Racing Pigeon Union stepped forward in 2003, to donate trophies to the first AU loft in each of the three Federation races.
The Federation currently has seven competing sections, awarding one overall winner, seven section winners, and one champion loft (based on points obtained in the top 50 birds divided by individual entry) for each of three races. Winners are featured in the Racing Pigeon Digest. Funding is raised through a "Winners’ Auction" every November, which serves the dual purpose of being a mini NFL type draft (winners put their winning blood on the stump), making available to all who aspire, the genetics proven effective in tough, eastern-Midwest, long distance racing.
As the sport in Ohio, western Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York State ages, facing diminished participation, the Ohio-Penn Federation races provide renewed hope for those seriously worried about classic, old bird, long distance racing. The Federation today, stands as a symbol to the rest of America’s racing pigeon fraternity as to what can be accomplished when reasonable men with foresight put aside petty differences, and work together for the benefit of the great sport we love.
Mr. Mick Himich, Latrobe, Pennsylvania
Strong Feelings, Fond Memories of Missing Pittsburgh
WINS OHIO-PENN FEDERATION 400 MILE RACE
FIRST BIRD OVERALL, 1ST INTERSTATE SECTION
THE PITTSBURGH CENTER in 1954.
Sitting at his kitchen table, while holding his father, Mike Himich's, 1956 "Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Race" trophy, Mr. Mick Himich, was lost in thought about the old times. He recalled, as a small boy, walking up an alley in Pittsburgh, holding his Dad's hand, having had to park the car five blocks from the club house (because there were so many flyers, they couldn't get closer), and struggling to lug shipping crates across the tracks while watching for city trains. (His dad worked for the railroad.) Mick went on, "The clubhouse was big. There were lots of people, lots of clocks, and crates. People were eating, talking, laughing and gambling, and milling around in clusters. Hopes were up. Expectations were high. It was fun! Birds and fanciers were everywhere. In one corner, you might see birds being held up to dim lights where eyes were examined, while in other groups, or in other conversations, 'long distance wings' might be discussed, and 'the steps' studied. In the 1950's, the Pittsburgh Center exceeded 650 lofts. Membership in just the old South Hill club, alone, exceeded seventy-five." He remembers that you stepped down into the bar (the club had its own liquor license.). "Cigarette and cigar smoke was thick. A haze overwhelmed the place. There was lots of food to eat. The sport was big then. Pittsburgh was big then, and the city, ultimately, went on to have three combines, shipped two tractor trailers to a race, and had races with over 7,000 birds competing. If you could win a race once in five years, you were good, and you remembered it. The sport was strong. No one ever thought about the end of it coming. On Monday mornings, the Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph ran nearly a full page of club race results."
But, that was then. Today, we are the people standing at the edge of time, wondering where everybody went, and what has caused the demise of the sport. In our own way, we are like native American Indian (at the end of the trail.) Who would ever have thought that Peter Barry's great Pittsburgh Center could just evaporate; disappear to the mere, 20, or so, determined flyers that struggle on today. It is sad, disheartening and sobering. We look back longingly, with a sense of loss.
(So, don't get too relaxed, or too pompous with the people doing the work, or take too much for granted where you are flying today. In a decade, you could be flying in a city with participation that looks like Pittsburgh, wondering what happened to the good old days!)
ACCOMPLISHED BY ONLY 14 OF 20,755 BIRDS
Fast-forward to June 13, 2009. Flying from a perfect, hilltop setting, in the farm country outside of Arnold Palmer's Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Mr. Mick Himich has made quite a splash in his club. Mr. Mick had his little red check hen (7061 LAT IF 07), really wound out, and she did what only 14 of 20,755 other birds have done since 1998. She won 1st Place, Overall, in the 2009 Ohio-Penn Federation 400, against 1615 birds from 133 area lofts. Flying in light rain, north winds, and mild temperatures, the tough, little day-bird flew 493 miles at 1212 ypm, clocking at 18:25:16, beating the second place bird by only 60 seconds, but beating the old Pittsburgh war-horse, Dr. Paul Benz, by eleven minutes! ("Any time you can beat Paul Benz, it's been a good day", observed a very pleased and gratified Mr. Himich. Dr. Benz was a close friend of father, Mike Himich, and is the godfather of Himich's sister.)
The savvy Mr. Himich has flown the great Federation 400 only three times in the last four years, while placing himself in the respectable 7.36 percentile. In 2005, Mr. Mick, also, scored high in the Ohio-Penn Federation 500, winning 4th overall, against 1607 birds (0.25 percentile), thus claiming two impressive finishes in Federation events in just 4 years, which for most flyers is a non-occurrence in a lifetime! With an average entry of only ten birds per race, the Himich loft has proven to be a major contender, demanding serious consideration on race day, and no prospective winner can rest comfortably, until the seasoned Himich establishment has reported to the club!
IN THE LOFT
The 59 year old Mick Himich has all the tricks and experience of an old-time, inner city, Pittsburgh, flyer/gambler, and he learned many of the little motivational gimmicks from watching his pigeon racing father. (Mick has been around the smart little birds all his life.) A natural flyer (who has never tried widowhood), with an old bird team of 35 birds, he's sweet on hens, schedules them to race home to 12 day eggs (but, the older the better), and had his Federation winning, little red hen, busting her britches to cover 14 day old eggs. His medium sized birds are a mix of Detroit Bekaert, Janssen and a little bit of his dad's tough, Pittsburgh-city blood. They are an all-around pigeon, some excelling long, while others are best short. He has learned that some of his little soldiers don't begin to maximize their racing skills until three years of age, but, can hang in there until they are seven or eight! Himich is a light to heavy feeder after a race, and will feed 'light' for three to four days going into another short race (up to 200 miles), meaning only light, small grains, (no corn or peas); then adjusts backward if going into a long race, and will feed 'light' for, perhaps, only one day. 'Light' to Himich means small seeds, not necessarily barley. 'Heavy' means big seeds, like corn and peas. As he gets closer to a major, long distance race like the Federation 400, he increases the corn. He likes corn, and says the pigeons really respond to it. Regarding medications, forget it! There won't be any mutating bacteria in Latrobe, because the old Mick stays away from antibiotics. The birds get wormed, and occasionally receive Sulmet (for coccidiosis). He is a believer in probiotics, and understands the benefit of providing them frequently. "Open loft is a real benefit for conditioning birds for distance events", and his Daddy used it a lot (but called it free bobbing), but in a green, environment-friendly world that poops out hawks like the Federal Reserve does cash, "you've got to be diligent, or you'll lose some good ones", explained the old master, Mr. Himich.
A LITTLE REMINDING
Mick Himich, is a pigeon racing treasure (we all relate a little bit to his memories,) and he links our sport's past to its present, in a way that only a few can. Old Mick is as cool as the "Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Race" trophy he treasurers, and his memories remind us of why, we, as a sport, must continue to gravitate together. We are vulnerable divided. Perhaps like Pittsburgh, we have little time for pouting, bellyaching and bickering. We need to get back to thinking, co-operating, building and restructuring while we race, and while we enjoy what little time may remain for our sport! Mick Himich is a rare resource. While you can, use him to your own advantage. He has seen it all, and can assist in giving you ideas and strategies that can help you win. Call him at 724-539-7977. (I've done my part, but I can't do your part!) Good Luck. We want you to win. (Besides, we're tired of these guys winning all the darn races!)
RALPH WITHROW & SONS
WINDY POINT LOFT
The G-5 Defies Gravitational Pull of Big Flock
2ND PLACE OVERALL, 2009 OHIO-PENN FEDERATION 400
CHAMPION LOFT 2009 FEDERATION 500
SIX TIMES IN TOP 1% IN FED RACING EVENTS
The aged cock-bird, Ralph Withrow, of Flushing, Ohio, his 34 year old son, Ricky, 30 year old son, Chris, and grandsons, Mathew and Riley, have made some changes in the last few years that have proven to be very effective in improving their Ohio-Penn Federation racing statistics. Since it's our nature to be pointed and nosey, we want to know what they have done!
BREAK FAST, OR LOSE.
Flying from a location in Flushing Ohio, "way off the majority's line of flight (1600 birds that are flying from southwest to northeast), the two pigeon racing magicians, Mr. Ralph and Ricky, have done the highly improbable, according to conventional pigeon racing logic, in getting their speedy birds to win, flying almost due east, to a location just five miles north of interstate 70, despite wrong-way winds, and the heavy gravitational pull of the big flock away from them at the moment of release.
What have they done to the minds of these little birds? Is it something you can do? How do they get their sculptured, little darlings to defy flocking instincts, and fly a course 35 degrees to the south of the main flock, and still win? We want some answers, Ralph. (Ralph's quick explanation is that you just have to get them to want to come home! No kidding!) Stick with me, and we will begin our search for the obvious, but first consider these statistics.
In the Ohio-Penn Federation 400, the Withrow team, has managed to place their best bird in the 0.97 percentile in their best four races of the last six years. (So, this is not a one race phenomenon.) More impressive, is that the old grand master and his son, in Federation 500 events, have placed their best bird in the 0.44 percentile in their best three races of the last six years, and (in 2009 were crowned Federation 500 Champion Loft, for having the highest average points per entry, for birds placed in the top fifty.)
Their percentiles are obtained from a 400 mile, 4 race average, of 1448 birds, 112 lofts, against an average of 14 entries; and a 500 mile, 3 race average, of 1649 birds, 117 lofts, against an average of 20 entries, (no small potatoes.) Remember, lofts that rank in the first percentile have better performance than 99% of all other lofts in the race, and weighted percentile ratings, are the truest, overall measure of a champion's mettle.
446, THE "PROVERBIAL DUD".
Flying with a strong Flushing, Ohio, club that has nine high-caliber members, and ships west with the greater Penn-Ohio combine, the perennial champions, Mr. Withrow and son Ricky, succeeded in winning Second Place Overall, in the 2009 Ohio-Penn Federation 400, competing against 1615 birds and 133 lofts, having entered only twelve of their highly charged, intelligent widower cocks. Clocking first, a dark check, Houben-Janssen cock (446 SBMF AU 08), at 16:18:34, with a cruising speed of 1211 ypm, the Withrow gang, nearly pulled off the win of a lifetime, missing First Place Overall by only sixty seconds from 405 miles, (getting trumped by the great, old Mick Himich, of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, by just a smigden (2.08 ypm). The second place, yearling cock was "the proverbial dud" as a youngster, but knowing the pigeon family, and what was supposed to come from the golden eggs of his mamma, meant the anxious Withrows had hope, (and lucky for mamma, she was vindicated!) Let it be noted that the dam of the wonderful 446, was 3rd in the 2006 GNEO Futurity, his aunt was 3rd in the 2003 GNEO Futurity, his full sister was 6th in the 2008 GNEO Futurity(1st auction race), his nest-mate was 15th in the 2008 GNEO Futurity, and his grandsire was 20th in the Ohio Futurity race. So, we see it again, nonbelievers; the effect of genetics. Breed around the good ones because, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."
ACCOMPLISHED at CLASSIC WIDOWHOOD.
The accomplished Mr. Withrow, is a classic widowhood flyer, meaning he flies only his cock-birds, and has been using this system for three years, (our 1st clue.) In previous years, total widowhood was his mantra, but the switch came in an attempt to simplify his life. (He is, of course, up there, at 59 years old!) "I really, really, hate that I can't fly those darn hens, but you have to adjust your racing system, from time to time, to accommodate outside influences," lamented the busy champion. Mr. Ralph, and Ricky are carpenters, and Ricky's active, young family has a lot of scheduling conflicts on weekends, "but we adjust, and everyone works together to maximize our performance, even the little guys", (grandsons,) Mathew and Riley, explained the proud Grandfather, and overseer, Ralph. The Winthrow widowhood hens are maintained in the same building as the cocks, behind them, but are not shown prior to shipping, except for yearlings. "And, we try to eliminate that as fast as we can," explained a determined Rickey. "Our fear is that the extra motivation produced from regularly showing the hens, will wear off, leaving the cock-bird team flat for the later Federation races," he added. Instead, widowers are allowed on the hens' side of the box, for 15 to 30 minutes, with only the companionship of the up-right bowl, prior to basketing.
The Withrows have been racing for twenty years, with a family composed of Koch Janssens, and long distance Campbell Strange blood sent in from Owen McDonald, of Canandaigna, New York, and a few birds from the great long flyer, Heber Nelson, of East Liverpool, Ohio. The McDonald blood started coming in 1982, as part of the AU'S Help-A-Beginner program, and the genes of those birds run in the veins of most good Withrow Federation racers, today. Recently, Houbens have been added to the mix, (our 2nd clue,) resulting in a family that flies tough in young bird futurities, as well as the important old bird Federation events.
WHY THEY WIN.
Like many of the Federation champions before him, Mr. Withrow, has gotten better at protecting his team from overexertion, (our 3rd clue,) by exempting them from certain weekly races, providing plenty of rest going into the later, greater Federation distance events. Widowers are fed in their boxes, on pretty much a standard light to heavy feeding curve, using barley at the light, beginning of the week, moving along to Ralph's heavier commercial mix (with no corn), to which he then, artistically, adds small seeds, carbohydrates, protein and volume, as experience, and instinct tell him he must, based on bird activity and fleshing. (It is common for these geezer champions to have difficulty reciting the specifics of their daily activities because, (besides being so old,) so much of what they do is based on reacting better when "the old shit detector goes off", (our 4th clue.)
The Withrows are patient with their young bird teams, knowing what to expect from the genetics of the family as it enters the 300 mile futurity season, then calmly moves the best potential on to the next level, which, of course, is the old bird widowhood team. Standard vaccination programs are implemented. They are forever on the lookout for canker and respiratory problems, and treat these frequently over-looked disorders, routinely, during the race season, (our 5th clue.) Young and old bird selection, is left to mother-nature, (the basket), and they find their racing success is best with yearlings, two-year-olds and three-year-olds. Older, thus, less enthusiastic, widowers are winnowed out as they age, (our 6th clue,) some to the breeding loft, some to fellow fanciers needing assistance, others to the dinner table. Ralph, and the boys, have voracious appetites for information, (our 7thclue,) and are current on tapes, DVD'S, CD'S and magazines. Like the great, extended, long distance Berdis family, of Erie, Pa., they feed off of each other, increasing their enthusiasm, focus and concentration, with each success, as they grow in experience, (our 8th clue.)
THE CLUES RECAPPED.
So, let's recap the clues we've dug up on old Ralph and the boys! (1) The guys have changed their racing system to coincide with conditions on the ground. Face it, things change. You have to adjust constantly to improve, sometimes just to stay even. It's an arms race! Time constraints require that you find new ways to compensate. (2) They have introduced new blood. Most of this came from friends, or local combine auctions, and was not expensive, but it was exceptional genetics sorted from proven families. It is a relentless mentality that seeks to win, that drives this search. (3) They have gotten better at reading the cock-birds' needs, relative to rest and conditioning. They have gotten better because they have gotten more experience at winning. (4) Their reaction time is better to circumstances they see inside the loft. They quickly take advantage of opportunities that turn up, or fix problems that might fester, if left unattended. (5) They are more attuned to diseases, reacting more quickly, perhaps even anticipating better. (6) They have moved to a younger team. Time and time again we have heard champion long distance flyers say that older birds become "just homing pigeons", except in smashes. Youth brings passion. Passion brings breaking, and speed. You win races with youth. You win average speed with age. (7) The Withrow bunch is hungry for information. This is driven by their hunger for winning, a hunger morally counterbalanced by the old colonel's (Ralph's) temperance. (8) Each success increases enthusiasm, which feeds increased learning, which, in turn, feeds increased skill level. It's a perfect scenario for racing!
Winning need not be unhealthy or immoral. The Withrows will continue to win, because they are unsatisfied with not winning, (nothing immoral about that.) It can be this way in any loft in America. You just have to find ways to compensate, and you have to be driven through the tough times by a moral, relentless desire to win. It isn't hard to see why in their recent, best four 400 mile events, 5.77% of their entry went into the top one percent; or why 6.67% of their entry went into the top one percent of their best three 500 mile events. They win "the old fashioned way. They work smart!"
CALL FOR A RESCUE.
If you find yourself in a position of disappointment relative to your own race percentile rankings, give the effervescent Ralph Winthrow a call. (The vast majority of long distance, old bird fanciers compete with the natural system.) Great widowhood flyers are idiosyncratic, and rare. This man is, also, confident, extremely competent and competitive beyond belief, and can provide guarded motivational ideas that will dazzle you. You can reach Ralph at 740-968-4751, or the one with the "eye of the tiger" (Ricky) at 740-968-0534. It is your call to make, but we want to see you win. (And, these guys want you to win, too!)
Dr. Paul Benz, Greentree, Pennsylvania
DRIVEN OLD DENTIST IS PITTSBURGH POWERHOUSE
4TH Overall, 1st Pittsburgh Section, 2009 Federation 500
5th Overall, 1st Pittsburgh Section, 2009 Federation 400
See the 500 FED article for Dr. Benz Write Up Click Here
Stan Dickerson, Coshocton, Ohio
THE LAST LION OF COSHOCTON COUNTY
FIRST AKRON-BUCKEYE SECTION, 22ND OVERALL OHIO-PENN FEDERATION 400
Snow White He Isn't
Flying from the southernmost end of the Federation's Akron-Buckeye section, amongst the peacefully remote and supremely beautiful, forested hills and green valleys of Ohio's Coshocton County, lives the last of the county's tough, old lions of pigeon racing, the 74 year old, Mr. Stanley Dickerson. An often complex, old Champion, Mr. Dickerson ranks as one of the greatest achievers ever to emerge from within the ranks of the Federation. For years, introduced to auction crowds as the "first and only, two time winner of the rich and highly coveted GNEO Futurity Race" (there now are two others,) and a greatly respected First Overall winner of the 2005 Fed 500 (later rescinded by the overseers because he was officially four miles too short), the kindly old gentleman could almost qualify for a Harvard Business School study in efficiency, discipline and seriousness. A man of details, with a quick mind, and high caliber endeavoring, who is unforgiving in his expectations, Mr. Dickerson doesn't suffer fools for long, making it sometimes fretfully difficult for him to find a perch to race from. But, despite that, being a polite and outwardly quiet man, he still manages to mangle the whole spectrum of competitors from wherever he flies, with small entries, competing in his races with the tenacity of an experienced Cooper's hawk, and finding himself to be a winner three, four or five times in a normal combine, old bird racing season. (The man can usually win whatever he decides to be worthy of his time.)
And so it was again, in 2009, in the great Ohio-Penn Federation 400, deciding that last year's winner had won it enough, the old veteran swooped in to snatch away the victory, being First Akron-Buckeye Section, 22nd Overall, against 1615 birds, from 133 lofts, with the blue widowhood cock, 587 WHF AU 08, clocking at 15:48:04, at 1143 ypm. The speedy "587" wonder cock is a Leudo Claussen/Van Loon cross, but against all of our sporting expectations, was poorly regarded by his Skipper in his young bird season, living for week after week after week with the humiliation of being a "dud". Nor, does it seem that our champion's reputation improved much with the Pigeon Boss in his second season, for the here-to-fore, underachieving, nondescript "587" yearling cock offered no clues as to improvement, and stumped the good Captain, for he was not the first bird, the disciplined and highly talented Mr. Dickerson expected to see on such a cool and lightly raining race day.
Coming from within the bowels of a family of pigeons that produced the great (banished) First Overall Fed 500 winner van 2005, and six other brothers of distinction, the genes of Mr. Dickerson's newest champion, originated in part from Carl Dewberry's Leudo Claussens, in 1999: then, the Van Loon part, from Lou Colletta, and from the Super 73 greats of the nationally renowned breeder, racer and liquor purveyor, Bobby Gonzalez.
Is He the Great Achilles, or the Terminator?
The Dickerson long term Federation race record is stunning, when studied by someone with a passion to win. With a near nano-entry, averaging only five birds per race, in four of his last five Federation 500 events, the old master, like the great warrior, Achilles, has surgically castrated the competitive field, placing his first pigeons, like arrows, in the rarified top 0.85 percentile, against an average race of 1449 birds/107 lofts. Other, mere-mortals fare no better in the Fed 400, where averaging a miniscule seven bird race entry, the Terminator-like, Mr. Dickerson, after going man to man with the Federation's best, is eye-balling an average 1.26 percentile rating, against an average of 1599 birds/123 lofts, in five of the last eight years. Ah, but, what the heck, let's take a much needed time out! We'll give you a moment to gather yourself up, for there may be others with you that will, no doubt, want to proof this paragraph, making certain, that you have paraphrased it for them, correctly!
It's the Hens, Stupid!
Pigeon racing has been a part of Stan Dickerson's life for a long, long time, having had the remarkable birds as a childhood hobby, giving them up for military duty, then, diving back in with a vengeance, to race, fifteen years later. Today, he is a consummate, well studied, thoughtful, classic widowhood man, and after many years of trial and error, appears to have the regimen nearly figured out. Of course, he flies the race with his cocks; watches, waits and worries for his cocks; but believes just as deeply, the race is won with his hens, who remain, very much, warm and comfortable, and, at home. And, that is where the highly analytical, Mr. Dickerson parts company with much of the widowhood fraternity. In a two story loft, having room for only 20 widower cocks, an intuitive Mr. Dickerson, houses his hens in the basement of this facility, trying to maintain absolute separation between the racing athletes and their mates: this being not so much for the cock's psychological welfare, but for the hens.
What's more, the hens aren't free to assemble and collaborate in discussing their mates, or each other, or anything else, as in other widowhood lofts, for here, they are maintained, and cared for, individually, so that, besides a warm and chatty Mr. Dickerson, the only physical contact with creatures of any other type, is with their mate, at the time and place of Coach Dickerson's choosing. "Like my wife, your wife, your sister or others, the complete absence of the mate, has a very telling effect on the attitude towards that mate, when they are finally repatriated," whispered an advising, fatherly, Mr. Dickerson, with a wink. "It is extremely noticeable, relatively speaking, and I wouldn't consider motivating my couples in any other way," shared the guru that just placed 19% of his average entry into the top 1% of a four race average of 1449 birds from 500 miles (like smart bombs into a bunker.) Who with a brain would dare debate strategies with the, near genius, old Master?
Recognizing that not all hens make good widows, like some Race Motivational Director, Mr. Dickerson is careful who is chosen, and strives diligently to reunite a good cock with his proven mate, year after year. "It is not at all unusual to find that a poorly performing cock is in trouble with the little lady at home, shares Mr. Dickerson. Dickerson always shows his hens to his young, green cocks, (rarely to the older cocks who know how to play the game, not because it is extra work, but because he finds it to be utterly unnecessary); but always shows hens to any cock-birds going into the two day, long distance races. "Two day races really cut into a cock's romantic countenance" shared the old sage. Prior to shipping, no sneaky romantic interludes are allowed, and for most of the good old boys, only the old pottery bowl is available for sharing one's romantic moments! Ah, but for a race to be over, at which time those having promptly returned, find heavenly favor for about fifteen absolutely thrilling minutes. The boys arriving late get favored too, but later, and "more shorter"!!!
The Dickerson widower cocks are hopper fed, (half the ration in the morning, the other half at night,) using a premixed conditioning feed, to which Mr. Dickerson expertly adds a little of this, and a little of that, being primarily beefed up with peanuts and corn. (For longer races, when possible, separate grains are fed separately.) His returning aces are fed lightly upon their immediate return, when they would likely not eat anything anyway; but one day later, chowing down begins in ernest, without regard, or worry, of theories of "light to heavy".
Conditioning of the speedy Dickerson widower cocks is nearly voluntary, for after eight or ten quickies down the road, that's it, except for loft flying. The little stallions are never trained after the season starts. Birds are hand bathed and massaged weekly, evaluated as to condition and form, then discriminately selected for particular weekend races. Birds having flown more than six to eight hours are held, others may be repeated, all in an effort to get the maximum performance from his well toned, well cared for, smart, little tomes.
Very Tough On the Short End
Mr. Dickerson has a final thought about pigeon racing for the Federation long-flying fellows that he has competed against for so many years, and, boy, this may get some feathers flying. But, first, a qualifier is in order. (Mr. Dickerson recognizes, certainly, that were he on the long end, equally persuasive counter-arguments could be quickly presented.) His thoughts are relative to a wish that long flyers consider this, when feeling they are unfairly disadvantaged by short flyers: "short flyers do not have an easier time of winning, than long-enders, as, perhaps, some long flyers tend to think, (certainly not tougher, but for sure not easier"), for reasons that might include these. Short flying, off-line pigeons have little time to think, barely time to orient, and no time for mistakes. "The bird that hesitates is lost." If they follow for a nanosecond too long, pulled in by the undertow of the bigger flock, the race is over for the fine feathered, short peckered, Mr. Short Guy! From the very first wing beat out of the trailer, they have to make the break, and get their fannies headed for home. Three or four minutes of unproductive circling at release, becomes a larger percentage of total flight time for a short flyer than for a long flyer. Longer distances allow more time, proportionally, for mistakes to be corrected. Early releases frequently have little wind. As wind speed increases throughout the day, the long flyer is advantaged, and calm, early morning flying time becomes a greater percentage, once again, of the short guys total flight time. And of course, nanoseconds can end up meaning everything on certain days. Timing is everything. "For the short end, the race is won or lost coming out of the trailer. This game is more about straight lines than about speed."
Great organizations are made great by virtue of their competitiveness. Consider, for example, the New England Open. And, despite the pros and cons relative to long or short, it is important that the pigeon racing game be fair, and that all participants feel they have an equal shot at victory. Competition is what makes the sport interesting, gets the heart pumping, and motivates participants to get off their hands to make adjustments, repeatedly, and then, yet again! It's an arms race. Studied champions like Mr. Dickerson are at the epicenter of this source of energy. The thrashing that Mr. Dickerson and Mr. Jack Welling gave concourse colleagues in 2006, caused many a loft to be retrofitted, racing systems to be scrapped, and genetic sources to be reevaluated. (I'm one that knows!) It's good for the sport. We need more of it. Competing against talent like Mr. Dickerson, is exciting, stimulating, at times painful, and, at other times exhilarating. He is with out doubt, one of the best American Champions you'll ever read about, or that I'll ever write about. He is modest about his formidable win/loss record, and is willing to help anyone seeking improvement. Like the great Mick Himich, of Latrobe, Pa, you can't assume victory until the great Dickerson has had his chance to speak. Stan is retired, and as always, is ready and willing to help if you will call him (after his nap!), and long versus short may become one of his most frequent conversations. You can reach him at 740-622-3903. We want you to win, and this man can show you how, if you will listen and follow through. So, just do it!
Lloyd "Bud" House , Vienna, Ohio
YOU REALLY GOTTA BE NUTS TO FLY PIGEONS
FIRST STEEL VALLEY SECTION - 2009 OHIO-PENN FEDERATION 400
Another Crazy Pigeon Flyer over 80!
"Anybody that has raced pigeons since 1948 (62 years), ought to be declared a mental case shouldn't they", I thought to myself. "What's with these eighty-year-olds anyway?" Interviewing this new crop of 80-somethings is different than I thought it would be. They have a lot of ambition and lots on their minds. They talk fast. They are busy. They can hear more than me. (I'm big on my big hearing aids!) They are coherent, energetic, and almost ornery. They don't act old. Some of them I catch on extension ladders. Others are making meal deliveries to "shut-ins". At the time of this interlude, old Bud was on his hurried way out the door to choir practice at church: had to leave in 10 minutes-time was short-get to the point, was the tone, gently made. (Wow, you mean Bud can still sing, I thought!) At 57, I was off guard; and found myself fumbling like a rookie corporate salesman late for a Monday morning tiger meeting. But "I'm no rookie". I caught myself, collected my composure, and fired back. "How bout I just call you later, when you have more time, Mr. Bud", I humbly requested.
Pigeon Patty Keeps Bud Winning
Bud and Daughter Patty
And, so went my introduction to the octogenarius, Mr. Lloyd "Bud" House, of Vienna, Ohio, a determined and dedicated old sportsman that hadn't missed shipping an old bird pigeon race since 1961, and who is the reigning Steel Valley Section Champion of the 2009 Ohio-Penn Federation 400, flying against 1615 birds and 133 lofts. Bud's big, rust-belt tough, blue cock-bird (481 LCF IF 05), was a four year old, two-time race winner, bred by OPC President Fred Roscoe, scoring previous wins for Bud in 300 and 400 mile old bird combine races. Bud clocked the surly alpha cock at 18:27:58 (06:27 P.M.), flying at 1034 ypm, for 422 miles. Every good pigeon flyer needs competent assistance at one time or another, and it can mean the difference between success or failure for the season, since weekly racing schedules provide no quarter for lofts making mistakes. Providing that service for Bud is his daughter, Patty, who lives only three miles from the lofts, and can do nearly everything the good old Champion can do, from answering E-mail, to banding babies and training young birds. She loves the birds dearly, and has been known to shed tears on their behalf when she thought it would help influence the decisions of our incorrigible, managing Champion. It is, apparently, almost commonplace for exciting events of one sort or another to overtake the pigeon operation whenever Pigeon Patty oversees while Bud and Gerri are away. Recently it took Patty, and a second big sister, to get a little band on the oversized foot of one ity-bitty baby, but they jointly hammered on it, and succeeded. The good little baby survived to race. Papa Bud was pleased, and to his credit, Papa Bud knows he couldn't race like he does without the participation and moral support of his daughter, Patty.
All the inmates of the House loft, race on the natural system. "It is difficult to get the timing perfect, but to max the hormones and really hype performance", the old strategist's favorite nest position is with 13 day old eggs, and, as we saw with the very motivated "481", "it is also very hard for competitors to beat a seasoned cock-bird feeding a big youngster, who is also just beginning to drive his hen." (The window of opportunity for pulling off this effective psychological drama is very, very slight though, for as we know, a hyped-up, twister cock can go from "just calling" his hen to "hard driving" very quickly, burning off that limited race energy like rocket fuel in the process.) Like many of his long distance peers, as the races get longer, the wise, old man with the pigeons, Mr. House, changes his feeding routine; up to 40% corn is supplemented, to which he also adds black sunflower seeds (liking the oil as fuel) and peanuts, feeding all birds in the protected turf of their box.
"Putting Lipstick on Pigs"
I would never lump every breeder into just one category because I know there are some very legitimate, well intentioned, hard laboring providers of outstanding genetics out there, that we should continue to support with our dollars. We have all dealt with them. We need them. We are thankful to them for their service to the sport in uplifting the overall quality of our birds, and we take pleasure in seeing their monthly ads. Our racing fortunes have improved because of them. They also have lots of my money in their pockets.
However, there are, also, scallywags in the racing universe that "strategically enhance" the appearance of what they are selling, providing the fancy with pedigreed birds that aren't as good as they say they are. These frauds hurt us all, and should not be supported. They can delay your genetic improvement for years, and that's time you don't have to lose! They insult us with pedigrees that include little current performance data, providing only generalities like "has produced hundreds of winners". They expect you to get excited because a great-grandfather, or two, each representing 12.5% of the total gene pool, had a good futurity race. Forget it. They're "putting lipstick on pigs".
Buy breeding stock supported with current, specific performance data that has relevance to the races you intend to participate in. (Look for information providing who, what, where, when, and how many). If old bird long distance racing is where you want to excel, look for stock from fanciers that are good at long distance racing. Expect good information that can be verified. Good historical data takes discipline, time and energy to assemble and maintain. It is also hard to format that information on pedigree forms, but progressive breeding operations will find a way to provide what is demanded of them by serious, inspecting, well informed customers. Every long surviving businessman in America has these instincts. In the business world, it is commonly said that managers should inspect what they expect! The same ethic will work for you too. So, just demand it. Put the "snake oil" salesman out of business. Don't let a junk dealer sidetrack your breeding program and waste your time.
The blood lines in the House loft, for many years now, result from crossing Bud's father's battle tested, working class, old-line Stassarts with the best of the surviving OOA birds Bud has procured for the LCF (Land Channel Futurity) race, and of course, the steady "481" is a perfect example of what Bud chooses. (The Stassarts take me back to a visit to the great reputable breeder, pigeon broker and baker, Charles Heitzman, in the early 1970's. Stassarts were rugged individuals, athletic and beautiful; a real man's pigeon, and in those days, without good weather forecasting, birds got no byes on race day. If it was time to go up, they raced, and over the years, what survived was pretty tough, and that meant 500 mile day birds.) It is obvious by his "long" record, that Bud knows he can "bet the farm" on these pigeons; their body mass and masculine conformation surely making the difference. It is not surprising that Bud can frequently race these (beautiful) cracker-jacks until seven years of age.
Bashful Seven Time Section Winner
Not hardly! Experienced old Bud is not bashful. He's been around too long to ever be uncomfortable with his own skill level, I soon learned. "It's awfully hard to win in the middle", he informed me, a nugget of truth I couldn't completely disagree with? "Face it, the wind usually blows sideways to some degree across the field. When she rips from the left side, they arc to the right; when she rips from the right, they arc to the left. Right? Doesn't that benefit the guys on the extremes", he asked? (Didn't the great, short flying Dickerson just tell us this was a sport of straight lines over speed?) "How must the wind blow to help guys, like you, in the center", I asked? Bud just shrugged his shoulders and didn't answer. "The truth, of course, is when the wind is in their face, or when it blows them straight home", I said, responding to my own question. "But, even then our fine feathered short guy, or the determined long flyer, is helped more." Vienna, Ohio, the home of the OPC (Original Pigeon Club) is near Youngstown. Youngstown, of course, is ground zero for the Honorable James Traficant, now paroled; and lies right up the gut on the Federation 400 as the birds fly from southwest to northeast on their way to Cleveland, Akron, Erie or Buffalo. And, from this tough, disadvantaged, centrist position, I learned, the unpretentious, ornery, baiting old Champion, Mr. House, had won his Steel Valley Section seven times!
"This old boy handles himself like a man that knows how to win", I thought to myself. A quick check of the Federation stats proved me right. He's been consistently aggressive in the 500, having a 1.66 percentile for three of the last four years, against an average of 1525 birds. That's extremely good performance for a "poor guy in the middle"! I looked next, to his numbers for the Fed 400. The shorter race has been a little less kind for the wily, old Bud; a 3.55 against, an average of 1323 birds, for his best three races of the last six years, but then it is 100 miles shorter, I thought, and some of the 300 mile futurity type pigeons probably haven't been flushed out yet. In fact, over the last eight years, the top one percent in the Federation 500 averages only eleven lofts (9% of the average number of flyers), where-as, the Federation 400 averages 15 lofts (12% of the average number of flyers), and so it appears, anecdotally, that the last one hundred miles really does sort the speedy, girly, futurity type pigeons from the race. ("Girly", of course, interpreted from the perspective of those tough, manly, egocentric long flyers!)
You Gotta be Nuts to fly pigeons!
Bud likes to tell pigeon friends that "you gotta be nuts to fly pigeons", and so, the old, ardent nut, Mr. House, who retired in 1991 (19 years ago), has trained both young birds and old birds twice a week to any place from Akron, or Canton, Ohio (about a 45 minute toss), that his beautiful and glorious wife, Gerri, would like to date for breakfast. What's more, the old stallion, we learn, as he gets "younger", has become technologically savvy, having recently converted to an electronic timer that worked so well in the 2009 Greater Northeast Ohio Futurity Race (GNEO), that he clocked a 17th position (against 1000 birds) without even realizing the hard flying bird had arrived home. "You miss out on a lot when you don't even see your prize pigeon come in", explained the surprised Champion, Mr. House. One of the most bizarre incidents ever to happen to our Champion (a guy who has seen it all,) involved a House owned, two-time Club Champion Bird that was out, lost, from a Federation 500 mile race. The tough, old, award winning "Buckeye" cock, as we learn from Mr. House, was found walking along a lonely rural road in that unfriendly, up north, Michigan Wolverine territory, after having been only injured by what must have been an unranked, bumbling, miscalculating, rookie, "Wolverine" Cooper's hawk. However, as proof that not all "Wolverines" are the troublemakers we ingenuous Buckeyes sometimes think they are, several days later, the good cock was returned home safely by a "Wolverine" good Samaritan driving a truck, to the delight of his happy owner, and the super cock's three mates! What's apparent to me from this true Bud story is that our elder champion needs to find a way to bottle and sell as an elixir, that magic, excess Stassart testosterone!
Learn and Adapt
If there is any one thing we should take away from our older, erudite colleagues like Mr. Lloyd "Bud" House, it is that we should take nothing for granted relative to the healthy continuance of our beloved sport. Make every day count. ENJOY YOUR PIGEON RACING NOW. Don't procrastinate, and think you will fix your club problem next year. George Allen, the great Washington Redskins Head Football Coach, kept a sign on his desk to remind all comers that "The Future is Now!" (Winning sometimes requires a change in mindset.) The OPC (Original Pigeon Club) was once a proud member of the strong Steel Valley Combine, and a founding partner and leader in the Ohio-Penn Federation. In late 2009, the Steel Valley Combine was disbanded, having fallen victim, like so many other clubs and combines, to declining participation. What was once a thriving, healthy organization of six clubs, with ninety eight pigeon flyers within twenty miles of Youngstown, had been reduced to just one club and twelve flying lofts (with five not flying). With similar shrinkage occurring throughout our sport (think Cleveland or Pittsburgh), the old "do it my way" or the "all or nothing" mentality regarding organizational issues in clubs and combines is short sighted. It is hard to imagine that some among us still can't see that those self centered approaches are also self-defeating, perhaps hastening your own organization's final collapse. Learn to accept compromise.
It was recently reported that after every opportunity to communicate with his young military officers, the great U.S. counter insurgency genius, General David Petraeus, reminds his men, as their last instruction, to "learn and adapt" as they go along. And so it is with us, as we try to survive as a sport in the 21st century. Good luck in your going forward, but remember to learn and adapt.
If you are interested in sending OOA birds to the LCF Futurity race, you can reach our old champion, Bud House, at 330-539-5207. He's an uplifting piece of work! You'll enjoy your visit, and his many stories.
Betsy Greene and Steve Boldin
WIN WITH "ENORMOUS, CONSISTENT EFFORT"
FIRST PLACE LAKE SECTION, 53RD OVERALL
2009 OHIO-PENN FEDERATION 400
Welcome to Love-Aloft!
OF STUDY AND THOUGHT
"It is incredible that somebody could actually pull that off", I said to myself, reviewing what she had just laid on me. It was cold and late at night in Ohio's Amish country. It had been a long day in the old store. It had snowed. My boots and feet were wet. I was tired. The day's paper trail hadn't been completed. I wasn't sure I heard her right, and I kept playing it over in my mind. "This has got to be one of the damndest things I have ever heard of," I kept thinking. "Is this guy incredibly gifted, or, is he just astonishingly lucky", I wondered. "What's this say about this guy's latent talent? After all of these years, could I have done what he did?" I asked myself, as a little self-doubt began to creep in.
All of this intrigue was centered around an incredible story I had just heard about Steve Boldin, a 39 year old junior partner with Betsy Greene, in Love-Aloft, of Novelty, Ohio. They had just pulled off an amazing feat, albeit one steeped deeply in study and thought. Being an ardent student of national one-loft races, and having frequently watched (and scored!) training data on-line of the 2008 World Ace Challenge, Steve saw something interesting about to fall through the cracks, and he quickly reacted. "Mike, this is Steve." An urgent call was being made to Mike Gotthard at Boeing's airplane factory in Wichita, Kansas. "Alfons Klaas has a blue hen not activated for the WAC race, and the activation window closes in six hours." The great German fancier Alfons Klaas had won the South African Million Dollar Race in 2007, the year before. Both men knew it. "Mike, from what I can tell, the bird was out on one training toss, but it's back. All of its loft mates are activated. It looks to me like nobody wants to chance a thousand bucks on a bird that's been out. You oughta bet this one, Mike!" Mike was hesitating, "What color is it?" "It's a blue. I've seen her picture. She's beautiful", Steve beckoned. Mike Gotthard is no dummy. He knew a blue Klaas bird had won the Million Dollar Race. "If we're living right, maybe they'll be related", he wished out loud. "Do you want to go halves?" Mike asked. "I can't, Mike. I wish I could, but I don't have it," Steve responded.
So Mike Gotthard, having been generously tipped off by Love-Aloft's Steve Boldin, activated the bird alone, and went on to win "best average speed" at the 2008 World Ace Challenge with the little blue, Klaas hen that Steve had picked out for him, for the first of his two wins in as many years.
FIRST YB SEASON: 1st PLACE, 2007 GNEO FUTURITY RACE
After having flown racing pigeons for only one old bird season, Betsy and Steve pulled off the win of a lifetime, cashing in to win the 2007 GNEO FUTURITY RACE in Akron, Ohio, by nearly four minutes, beating out 86 lofts, and 1030 of the area's best bred birds, and did it with an entry of only 6 pigeons. Betsy wrote, "I'm told that new flyers don't win races like the GNEO Open. I think this win is a feather in the cap of all pigeon racers. The rules are set up such that there is an equal opportunity to enter birds in a race and equal opportunity for birds to fly it. The GNEO Open has been an adventure, and isn't the lure of all adventure, the unexpected? No one is more surprised than I!"
In its recent cumulative history, there have been only 13 overall winners of the rich and nationally known GNEO Race, against a competitive field exceeding 1300 flyers and 13,000 birds. This means that more than 99% of the area's very best and most aggressive competitors who have thrown themselves at this race with extraordinary efforts to win it, have been stymied. So, how is it that relative newcomers can win this great race after having flown for only one old bird season? Is it luck? Is anyone really that good, that fast?
ONE BIRD ENTERED; THAT BIRD WINS FIRST PLACE LAKE SECTION, 2009 OHIO-PENN FEDERATION 400
At the end of the 2007 old bird season, their very first, Love-Aloft had only one old bird remaining from its seven member old bird flying team. In 2009, flying against 1615 birds and 133 lofts, and having entered only one bird, Love-Aloft won the highly competitive Lake Section with a yearling cock, 462 IHC AU 08, clocking at 17:26:10 from 414 miles, at a speed of 1111 ypm. Winning a section in an Ohio-Penn Federation race is tough for even experienced flyers with a normal entry of twelve birds. It is exceptionally hard when you have been racing for only two years, and enter only one bird, but thinking of the great Belgian master, Maurice Caesart, who had twice won international races with a single entry, it had also been Steve Boldins long-time dream to send a single bird to a great race, and to win with that bird. The Federation 400 was a perfect opportunity to try it. So, the idea was floated. The pair knew their birds, and after a little bit of back and forth, they reached agreement as to which of their fine racing specimens could do the job. So, on that fateful shipping night, to the playful bantering and utter fascination of her fellow club members, Betsy Greene entered the hallowed clubhouse grounds with only a single bird to be countermarked. "Yes, yes, it takes only one to win," they howled humorously. Most of these hard-core, old timers have been fine-tuning their racing programs for years. Their teams are built up, and are highly experienced. Their lofts have been modified and remodified to minimize effort and to maximize effectiveness. Their genetics have been thoroughly tested and evaluated. Most lofts even know what sex of their bloodline is most dependable, and from what distance. Motivational systems have been sorted and tested. Conditioning and health regimens are elaborate and specific. So, it brings us back to where we started. Against all of this professionalism, how is it that, sure enough, on report night (and to their complete amazement), the two "rookies" at Love-Aloft, had out-flown them all, to a man!
You're about to find out that loft management in Greene's back yard is unlike anything you've ever seen, or thought about. Their racing philosophy is unusual, to say the least, and runs the spectrum all the way to bizarre, to say the most, but in the meantime they win, and like they say about tail-sign (versus eye sign), going in first is what counts in the final analysis.
GREENE: THE NUCLEUS
Seasoned by fire, strengthened by faith, sophisticated by training, Betsy Greene is a 72 year old, retired, first grade school teacher, but don't stereotype her; she is street-smart and tough, and if she wanted, could still eat guys like me for breakfast! (She could handle herself on any inner city playground, you might say.) A widowed, single parent, that has lost one child, (with a second suffering the effects of MS), with a Masters Degree in Urban Education and a near Masters Degree in Philosophy, the extremely tested Mrs. Greene raised three daughters, and taught school in inner city Cleveland for fifteen years in one of the city's most devastated, crime ridden neighborhoods. (She is currently writing a book about her experiences.) "It was the most difficult, and most important contribution I have ever made in this life, next to raising my own daughters", said Mrs. Greene. "The greatest gift I took away from teaching was the ability to know that I could always figure out a way. There was nothing I couldn't do if I set my mind to it. So that is how I tackle every challenge, every problem in my life. Since I have retired, my favorite challenge is pigeon racing."
"It's not rocket science to know that good athletes are fed well, sleep well and train well. If your own child were a talented, motivated athlete, what as a parent would you do to make sure the child met with success? Whatever that is, is what you have to do for your birds, if you really want to win races. You wouldn't cut corners to save money and time, if you sincerely wanted to help your child. You would find a way to do everything needed, and more. That's your investment in your own fun, and in their success. When hugely successful flyers say that their wins involve enormous amounts of effort, it really does. Being an old teacher and a single parent, I know also, that the effort has to be CONSISTENT; you can't let up; excuses don't win. It's never easy, but it can always be fun."
WE KEEP HOME THE BEST PLACE TO BE
Betsy goes on, "How dare an Old Broad that has raced for only three seasons, think she is going to change pigeon racing, but at Love-Aloft, we try to do exactly that. Our birds are treated respectfully and affectionately. I take exception to folks who raise hundreds and lose hundreds to win a race. Knowingly losing birds for the fun of winning doesn't appeal to me. We don't cull. Mother Nature does. We keep a manageable number of fifty birds. We know all that it is possible to know about each bird, everyday.
We don't send birds to races that are on eggs or babies. We don't darken, or lighten, or feed light or train harshly. We try to keep home the best place in the world to be: safe, airy, roomy, good food, clean water, exercise, treats, fun stuff to do including mates. A bath every week is one of the favorites. We do not make pets of our birds; we know that that interferes with their natural ability to survive. We buy human grade roasted unsalted peanuts to add to their commercial mix during breeding and race season. We add human grade popcorn, safflower and Australian peas, all year round. The birds get all they want, always, but before they get more they have to finish the first serving, and that includes the barley. Everyday we put a different food supplement in their fresh water: cider vinegar, yogurt, or other probiotics, vitamins, and electrolytes after a race. We put brewers yeast and cod liver oil on the feed twice a week. We worm individually and treat for canker individually, unless several show signs of disease. We innoculate for PMV, Paratyphoid and Pox.
Every bird gets its throat, mouth, breathing and wings checked every day it is basketed, or if it looks stressed. Pest strips go up in May, perch oil is used if they stomp, and poop is observed (including to whom it belongs), while we are inside the loft each day. We make sure our birds get a good night's sleep every night. If we have an edge, it is being as near to perfect health and happiness, as we can provide. As a deterrent to Cooper's Hawks, we put peanuts-in-the-shell out for Jays and Crows. They hang out all day cracking the peanuts and screeching at intruders. We use commercial, mineral fortified red grit, and Pic Pots from Belgium. When the birds aren't flying we provide occupational therapy; my theory being that a bird busy doing important birdie things is happier than a bird pining to be free. The birds play with dry tall grasses from the yard, wheat grass from the health food store, fresh washed organic spinach, candy from Foy's, and tobacco stems. And, the Old Lady plays them classical music while she scrapes."
"We take turns training, but Steve baskets. We administer meds and vaccinations together when an entire section needs to be done. I'm all about single tossing, and he's not. So we compromise. We're both about never asking too much from the birds when we train. They don't move to the next ten mile distance until they return promptly without panting from the first distance. We repeat a distance until it is conquered. We might lose a bird or two to a hawk during a toss, but we have never lost part or most of our race teams.
Last year, it took our young ones so long to get in shape that we shipped only the last two races; they weren't ready. I got some pressure from the club guys about babying my birds; none of them placed ahead of us in the GNEO, and none of ours were lost on a training toss. What does that tell you? I don't argue; I don't rationalize; I know that I know what works for us. The proof is in the pudding. Although we had little to show for young birds, we kept our team intact for old birds, and we both agreed that we'd rather have our team intact than a diploma in a file box. We didn't push them, nor did we baby them."
THE GIFTED PARTNER
Thirty-nine year old Steve Boldin developed an interest in pigeons as an eleven year old working in the Poultry Building at the Great Geauga County Fair (east of Cleveland). Befriended by two-time World Ace Challenge winner, Mike Gotthard, who had a Racing Homing Pigeon exhibit there, they have been friends ever since; and even today, twenty years and a thousand miles later, they talk about pigeons nearly every single day. Betsy continued, "Before he moved to Boeing in Kansas, Mike helped Steve build his first loft. When Mike left, our local guys were terrific; Hank Talcott, Gene Swanson, Jim Hazek, and others, whose names I do not know, would stop by a young Steve's loft to drop off a bag of feed they didn't need or a bag of grit; they had too much and thought he might could use it. My favorite is Jim, who brought Steve an STB wooden clock (the kid didn't have one) because Jim's new clock was the wrong color; he would buy another one that he liked better! Steve's mother always said the pigeons kept Steve out of trouble; she encouraged his interest."
"I call Steve the Bird Whistler. "He has a gift when it comes to pigeons; it's uncanny. He's not afraid to say he loves them. I know the birds trust him; it has happened that birds that flee a hawk attack, fly directly to Steve. His skills of observation are acute; he notices and remembers everything. He is always interested in races: who the winning birds are, their lineage, and who owns them. Mike Gotthard instilled in him long ago that a good bird is not about its color, or even how it handles; what matters most is how well it flies. Four years ago, Steve and I shared our loft duties. When I would offer extra help, he would say, "this isn't work, Betsy; I like doing it," and he meant it. Now he does most of the hard work alone. I am the substitute loft guy; the old lady's physical prowess declines exponentially with each passing year."
ALBERT SCHWEITZER: "RESPECT FOR LIFE"
"I went to visit friends once. Just inside their front door two pigeons stared up at me from a USPS shipping crate. Unafraid, those four dark eyes followed me. That's all it took. I was hooked. I loved everything about them, especially their wide set eyes and their gentle demeanor. I could not put them out of my mind. Love-Aloft began from there."
"My thanks to the kindest, most courteous flyers I know: Mike Gotthard, Dan Romanski, and my fellow club members of the North East Racing Club. These same NERC guys who were so good to that young flyer so many years ago, were equally good to the old lady who wanted to fly with them just three years ago. I took them coffee and cake, and they plied me with their pigeon experience. We continue to have Pigeon Parties after every Report night. Unusual wonderful experiences have come our way since we started to care for the pigeons. The coincidences are uncanny. I'm thinking maybe they were not coincidences, but Someone Else's plan we are cooperating with. I don't know. I think it is important to make this world a better place because we're in it, so I do. I do know that the pigeons are special. I am loving every minute of it." Aren't we lucky?"
There isn't anything left for me to say. Our Champion has said it all. Betsy Greene is a very special person, and her focus is very intense when she has an important subject before her. Besides the unfinished book, her other urgent, current project is to learn as much about MS as she can. ("One out of eight persons up north has the disease, the same statistics as breast cancer.") Get to know her. She would love to hear from you on that, or any other pigeon related topic. Her website is www.Love-Aloft.com. Her e-mail address Email Betsy. We'll be hearing more about the very successful Love-Aloft again soon, and it will be another interesting story to tell.
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