Central Roller Club
FORTY-THREE YEARS WITH PIGEONS
In the mid 1960’s my aunt and uncle, Bob and Mary See lived on the farm known as “the Mabry Place”. We lived just a quarter-mile away. My younger brother Ronnie, my cousin George and I were playing in the loft of their big barn. While playing in the barn the pigeons caught my eye. I just loved the noise they made. I was amazed at how they cooed and danced in their courtship. These pigeons were high up in the cupola. I wanted so much to get my hands on some of these beautiful birds.
I talked to dad about getting some pigeons. He agreed that if I would fix a place to put them I could have some. I took him at his word and began to build a pigeon coop. I cut hickory poles with a hatchet I earned from selling garden seeds. Screen wire was used for the sides. For the hinges I used some leather from some old dog collars. When dad saw this contraption he said, “That’s just not gonna work”. He said, “If you want them that bad I’ll help you fix a place for them”. I had rabbits so dad and I converted an old rabbit hutch into a pigeon coop. The Coop was about four feet square with a six-foot fly pen on it. We now had the coop made, but I still didn’t have any pigeons. Dad told me he knew a man that raised pigeons and he would talk to him about getting me some pigeons. I could hardly wait!
The day finally came and dad took this twelve-year-old boy to the man’s house that raised pigeons. This man, was Jim Storck of Vandalia, Mo. He raised pigeons mostly for meat. They were nothing fancy, just wild pigeons mixed with some Kings or Carneau’s. Jim said he would help me to get a start in pigeons. I remember him reaching into a nest and handed me two young squabs that were barely able to fly. They were both black. Jim went over to another nest and got a young red check squab and still another nest he picked out a pigeon that was white as snow. My eyes lit up when I saw him. He was a little older; however he was still young enough to settle without any trouble. Jim gave these four pigeons to me. I was so proud of them. I thanked him, took them home and placed them in the new coop. As time passed those young pigeons got used to me and I opened the door and let them fly around a little. They always came back. I trained them to come when I whistled. I would then feed them. Their feed was a way for me to control them.
As time went on my cousin Bobby caught a young squab from the “Old Mabry Barn” and gave it to me. Once again while we were playing in that barn I caught a squeaker that had just flew from the nest. She was mostly white and I called her “Midge”. I now had six pigeons that would get me started in the “Pigeon Business”. Pigeon Business, that reminds me of a little boy, Tony Reynolds, a son of my sisters’ friend. Tony was about four years old and I recall him saying, “When I grow up I’m gonna go into the pigeon business with you!”
Tragic came one night when an old coon tore into the coop and killed the red check and one of the blacks. I now only had one hen, “Midge”, and three cocks, the white one I called “King”, the other black named “Blackie” and “Blue Boy”. I did raise several from those commons and I can recall once ole “Blackie” raised six young. He was a good foster parent. Blackie lived to be eighteen years old. After a couple years of raising commies I was in a pet shop in Hannibal, Mo. and discovered they had pigeons for sale. They had some American Fantails. I had never seen or even heard of anything like them. I just supposed all pigeons were wild like mine. I just had to have these Saddle Fantails. I think it was hamsters I traded for them.
In 1973, I was working at Stark Brothers Nursery in Louisiana, Mo., and met a young man by the name of “Bill Anderson”. He also raised pigeons so I wasn’t the only one that was crazy. The whole world thought I was crazy when I mentioned to them that I raised pigeons. Bill introduced me to the famous “American Pigeon Journal”. He gave me a copy. I read it from cover to cover. Looking thru it I found there were pigeon shows and swap meets. I was hooked for life!
I began attending some shows in 1974 at Warrenton, Mo. where I met Mr. Frank Holman the editor of the APJ. There were many men at the shows that were well known across the country. I got to meet many pigeon fanciers such as: Dr. Hummel known for his Swallows, Mr. H. P. Macklin of Pacific, Mo. an author and a great breeder of many rare breeds, Erv Beyrau of Wentzville the breeder of the St. Louis Arch Crested Fantail, Harry Little of St. Louis, Mo. a Fantail breeder, Richard Kemm of Marshall, Mo. a King and Modena Breeder and many more. Erv Beyrau had some lawn shows and swap meets at his home. Many boxes of APJ’s were in Erv’s garage and he would allow me to just sit and look at those magazines. Thru the years I visited the APJ several times. I had just taken another three-year subscription when it discontinued. I spoke with Mr. Mike Worley and was informed they were combining the issues to get them back on time. I was very saddened when it closed. Other pigeon magazines are available today, however; they will never be able to take the place of the AMERICAN PIGEON JOURNAL.
I was looking thru the APJ’s and came across another pigeon fancier at Versailles, Mo., Joe Troutman. I contacted Joe and drove down to his place one cold winter day. I still recall the “Hot Coffee” and how it hit the spot. Mr. & Mrs. Troutman showed much hospitality and took us the tour of their lofts. Their many lofts had well over 500 pigeons. I bought a few from them and we left Versailles and journeyed on to Wentzville to Mr. Gene Clodfelter’s. Again, we found another fancier with many different breeds.
As time passed, I met fanciers here in my own home town. Reginald Hartung lived just a few miles away and raised rollers and fantails. He said his Rollers originally came from a man in Kansas City. He couldn’t remember his name. Floyd Joy raised rollers and still has them today. Rev. Virgil Smith and Virgil Smith also raised rollers. Although the Rev. Virgil has passed on his son Virgil Smith carries on with the pigeons today.
Rev. Virgil knew many other roller fanciers and I met them in the mid 70’s such as Paul Vaughn, Perry Vaughn, Harold Nichols and Wiley Sparks all of LaGrange, Mo. I got Rollers from many of these fellows. I also bought a family of white feathered legged Rollers from Henry Carpenter; of Hannibal, Missouri. I bought all the rollers Mr. Carpenter had when he decided to stop raising pigeons. I had around 60 Rollers and had some real nice birds when they were all stolen. Heart broke; I began to look for more rollers. Mr. Hartung or Mr. Carpenter didn’t have any more rollers now. Paul didn’t have any at the time. It seemed no one really had any at the time so I began to search the APJ. I contacted Mr. Jim Petersen in 1980 and was able to obtain 10 youngsters from him. Mr. George Reeves also gave me a couple of birds. I began a family of birds from these which I still have today with only a few introduced over the years. A little later I met Bill Goodwin and he gave me a pair of pearl eyed white rollers that were actually from light red grizzles.
Since 1966, I have met many fanciers and learned to love and respect them. My life has been fun with rollers and still today I look forward to raising another kit to train (hopefully) it will be the best I’ve ever had. The reason I continue on with Rollers is because of the challenge.