Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pigeons vs Humaniacs

Chris Landauer of Border Wars sent me a note a couple of weeks ago on the ARista's war on pigeon racing. Since then I have been roaming the Internet, too busy and too pissed off to to write a calm essay on the kind of people who would persecute old men, some of them who have made real connections to youngsters of different cultures, for being "racketeers" for betting on races. They claim it is cruel because some don't make it home (they don't know most ferals are more homer than not), and that some substandard birds are "culled" (and eaten), a practice and term that they seem to think unique to pigeon keepers....

It would of course be easy to sue the sport out of existence, of course; though the Queen of England and some wealthy Belgians fly birds,  the old working class cartoon character Andy Capp on the other side of the channel and ancient ethnics like my late grandfather in the US are more typical, as are young blacks and city Hispanos. And given its nature as a HOMING sport, its targets are stationary, unable to go underground. Add irrational fears of diseases that pigeons don't even carry, the latest being bird flu...

And then I thought, to hell with reasoned arguments; better to go with my initial reaction. So here are some of the calmer parts of my reaction to Chris...

"God, Chris, I get so sick of it all.

" 'It's so crooool, but they are all old and they're going to die soon so we'll LET them'...

"And another human- animal hybrid culture, another meme, another selected association of unique genes goes back into the undifferentiated pond; another joy is taken from us, there is one less thing to distract the young from the all- flattening difference- ending locale- killing biophobic Almighty Screen. How many youths in how many places once took baskets of pigeons miles to 'toss' and raced them home, as I did? No more pigeons, hunting dogs, ferrets, horses but for the rich, ratting, snake catching. Oddly my grandson probably WILL do many of these, but will he be a social outcast for it? And WHERE will he do it?

"And me- my salukimorphs are wanted, and my hawks. But who will pick up my unique genetic stream and crosses when I am gone, my wild hawk- evading homers, my crossbred and reconstructed old Spanish pouter breeds? Eli is too young, and his parents still live in the city; US cities are banning them outright by name (Chicago, Bozeman) or just making it  virtually impossible to keep or God help us FLY them.

"No answers but... Pigeon racing CRUEL? What absolute bullshit. The only beings that never suffer are-- DEAD."

A last thought: vegetarian and fine writer Sy Montgomery, who wrote beautifully about them in Birdology, knows better, and has more wise biophilia in her little finger than all of HSUS...

Photos from Scotland and Turkey, where pigeon culture still not only exists but thrives. The last pix including the cupboard loft are in the restaurant in Urfa where I used to eat lunch.


Jess said...

I don't remember if I sent this to you when I ran across it a while back. Pigeon keepers in New York City (not racing pigeons, they just fly them):

Matt Miller said...

"one less thing to distract the young from the all- flattening difference- ending locale- killing biophobic Almighty Screen."

I worry about this more and more.

My grandparents in central Pennsylvania raised pigeons. They raised them for meat, not racing--one of a number of poultry they kept. They did not eat squab but rather mature pigeons. The pigeons had an outdoor pen with roosts big enough for them to fly around, but they stayed in a barn at night. This was a very common way to raise pigeons in central PA when I was growing up, but I have not seen it elsewhere.

Mature pigeons were cooked in what we called Pennsylvania pot pie. But this was a soup, not a traditional pot pie. The soup contained large, flat dumplings, potatoes, white bean, carrots, etc. Pigeon was the common meat, but squirrel, ham and chicken could also be used.

When pigeons escaped, my grandpa would have me shoot them with a BB gun. I imagine this would now be frowned-upon behavior, too.

I've recently begun hunting rock doves again, now with decoys in rocky canyons near my home -- good sport and good eating.

Steve Bodio said...

Jess-- wonderful & will link. What have YOU been up to?

I fly my birds in Mag like that; in Bushwick or Urfa it is competitive too!

Matt-- they are also great game birds. Yet we are so disconnected that last month either one of the gun mags or Peterson's or Am Hunter-- they blur together-- ran an article on shooting them; then polled the readership on whether PIGEONS COULD BE EATEN.

I try not to despair. Send that recipe!

Anonymous said...

Pancho Villa allegedly kept pigeons in his rooms in El Paso when he was in exile in 1912-13. He said they were necessary for his diet (sensitive stomach) but they were really for flying messages to confederates in Mexico.

This smacks of legend, of course, but it's a good one.

I work assiduously to raise my daughter in a way that accommodates the Almighty Screen (it's inescapable) but requires her to disconnect and engage with the natural and human world. So far, so good.

I loathe much of the brave new world, but one must adapt. And I must say I value these internet interactions with people I would never otherwise encounter.

Jim Cornelius

Anonymous said...

Whenever you worry about all us primitive, backwoods old uns dying off and not being replaced by young uns, just remember(and take heart) that, at the rate the humaniacs are trying to get things outlawed, they are very likely to legislate themselves out of existence first! They are kinda like a fellow sawing off a branch from a tree while sitting on the opposite end from the trunk! I think we feral, earthy types will outlast them in the end--a great inspiration to me is the many cultural traditions that survived in secret despite outlawing and persecution, of the Native Americans! Or, as we old timers would say--tha injins. Writing books like you do, Steve, will help far beyond what you can reckon, too. No matter how hard the overly civilized try, there will always be "throw-backs" born into the population, so don't git too discouraged. Another analogy--despite generations of conformation bred show dogs, you can still occaisionally find old type functional dogs in those lines, despite every effort of the establishment to eradicate them!.....L.B.

Anonymous said...

My first comment here,but I really need to express my sadness and outrage at this closing down of our connections to the wild. Of these connections, working with dogs and birds is as ancient as the Pleistocene and part of the little we have left of that time in our human history.

I am fond of thinking that the "fall" of man is a mythical expression of leaving the open world for settlements and agriculture. And it makes me sad to think this "fall" is almost complete.