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About luck, gifts and 'pigeon knowledge'

One of my previous articles was called ‘A pigeon called Sissi’.
In it I showed facts that you need luck to breed that superbird that everybody is looking for.
I mentioned Klak’s ‘613’ maybe the best bird he ever had.
He wanted to sell his father (nicknamed ‘Knook’ the Dutch word for Ugly) but no one wanted to buy him. He kept the bird as the origin was good and this turned out to be one of the best things he ever did.
Houben is the same story.
As a baby one of his most famous birds ever ‘Young Artist’ was for sale but again, no one wanted him. Later on fortunes would be paid for its descendants.
An example I will never forget is that of a bird called ’05’ of Mr Vermeulen.
Insiders consider ‘05’ and ‘Olieman’ of Mr v d Veken as possibly the best Middle Distance birds ever.
Then how come that they are not famous abroad?!
It is too long ago that they made mince meat of the competitors. In those days the pigeon press did not mean much and people seldom bought birds, they just traded with one another.
As far as ‘Olieman’ is concerned world famous ‘Fieneke’ from Vervoort is one of his descendants.

Mr Vemeulen who bred ‘05’ was a rich guy who spent fortunes on pigeons.
When he mated the birds one winter the most expensive cocks (with the best pedigrees) were mated to the most expensive hens that he had bought.
Finally two birds were left, a cock and a hen that he had gotten for free.
They had no other choice than forming a couple and… were to become the parents of that flying miracle ‘05’.
As I said Vermeulen got the parents of ‘O5’ for free but this does not mean the origin was not good, on the contrary.
If it is true that you need good luck, you cannot fully ignore the origin of course.
Birds that have parents, grandparents and great-grandparents that are no good will give bad pigeons for sure.
Birds of good origin with great ancestors also give bad pigeons but with such birds you have more chances to get good ones.
Some think breeding good pigeons is like math. They study the pedigrees and form couples.
Why do they never wonder how come that a couple gives a super but only one?
You can compare this with humans.
In a family you may have 3 children that are good at languages, math, music or whatever, but a fourth child may have none of these talents though they have the same papa, same mama, same education and so on.
In Europe soccer and cycling are the most popular sports.
A fantastic cyclist was the Italian Michel Indurain, almost unbeatable at the time.
This Indurain had a twin brother who looked exactly like him. They were identical twins that no one could tell them apart.
Michel’s brother also wanted to be a good cyclist and so he trained hard but failed, despite (again) same parents, same education and so on how differently talented they were.

But of course it is not all luck.
Why is it often the same people that manage to import good birds?
Why is it often the same people that keep on breeding good pigeons?
Because they are smart, they know they need luck and try to give it a helping hand.
I mentioned before how lucky I was with ‘Sissi’.
At the time I went to the owner with an American fancier who had never heard about the breeder of Sissi before.
I suggested him to buy birds together, but he said such birds could not be any good and so thought a Japanese friend.
That’s why I had no other choice than to keep the bird in my loft.
So I did not breed Sissi myself nor did I breed the cock it was mated too.
I got this cock (‘Mattens’ I named him) before I got Sissi.
‘How lucky you were to get Mattens’ I have often heard and I sometimes smelt a taste of jealousy and reproach.
Of course I was lucky but there was more to it than that.
‘Mattens’ turned out to be a breeder second to none and please do not think it is propaganda to sell its babies, because I gave the bird away after it had been infertile for some years.
The strange thing was that it gave good descendants with one hen only.
I tried him with many other hens during 10 years that I had him, among them real superhens, but none of the babies turned out to be any good.
Now all those people who asked me questions after they had seen my catalogue will know why they cannot find good birds off of Mattens mated to another hen.
They were just no good.
How I got Mattens? For that we have to go back in time.

In 1991 we had a nice race from National Orleans. Over 200,000 birds were released and according to calculations by NPO I had the best result of the whole country.
I won 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th , 9th , 10th , 11th , 12th , 15th ,so not bad at all indeed.
National I started with 4th and 5th prize and when I got 10 birds home only one other fancier in the whole country also had 10 home.
But I must admit I was in a favourable location in this race.
I live in the East, we race from the South and the wind was northwest.
Those who lived west, near the Sea, were badly located as the wind drove the birds inlands (to the east) which was good for me and the fanciers in my area.
So due to the wind it was kind of normal that the early birds were clocked in my area but to my surprise I saw the name of a man who lived west in the result sheet.
His bird was disadvantaged by the wind and also the mass of the birds. It had made his way home quite alone, having to fight the wind more than other birds.
In fact he did a better job than my birds though my birds made a higher speed.
That’s why I grabbed the phone and called this unknown man called Mattens.

Later people often wondered what the word ‘Mattens’ meant.
Among them American Mike Ganus who raced in my area at the time the descendants of Mattens were destroying the races.
That is the name of a fancier I said as I had said to so many others as well.
They all shrugged their shoulders. Mattens? Who is that? They seemed to wonder.
But let’s go back to the point.
I asked Mattens if I could buy birds from him as I had Japanese friends who wanted good birds from unknown fanciers.
‘You may have all my birds’ he said.
So to Achiel Mattens I went.
He told me he was going to quit the sport as his son had chosen cycling as a hobby, or was it soccer? I don’t remember but anyway.
We negotiated upon the price and the deal was done soon.
All his birds were to be transferred to Japanese Masuda.
Among them was a baby only some months old.
As I often write, it is better to buy real young birds when you want to improve your birds. The fanciers themselves do not know then if these birds are any good or not.
Especially summer breeds are the best to buy.
Fanciers in Europe do not need them to race as old birds later, as they cannot train summer breeds.
So if a fancier has a summer breed that is a pigeon from his best in most cases.
They did not breed it to race but for the stock loft.

‘What about this summer bred?’ I asked Mattens.
‘Keep this bird for yourself. It is off of my best birds’ he said.
I did not know what to do.
The Japanese would not be happy with it and didn’t I have better birds than him?
So I decided to give it a try and the year that followed he was in my stock loft.
I had no partner for him but that was no big deal I thought.
I had mated all my best birds and why should I breed off of a bird from an unknown fancier?
But in the loft was another bird without a partner, one that I had also got as a present, yes indeed, Sissi.
A cock without a hen and a hen without a cock? Naturally they mated together.
It was pure coincidence. Honestly speaking I did not like the way that their first babies looked, so I eliminated them.
I have made many mistakes in this sport and this turned out to be one of them.
Mattens and Sissi were to become a pair that would write history in Holland.
Numerous superbirds, provincial winners, national winners, provincial Aces, National Aces up to Olympiadbirds were among their descendants.
Recently I heard that even Chinese Mr Fu got sensational results with the off spring of this pair.
As I said ‘Mattens’ only gave me good birds when mated to ‘Sissi’ and the funny thing is that the same thing happened to her.
I mated ‘Sissi’ with my so-called ‘Fast Blue’ a 1988 cock that was also a sensational breeder.
The result was that I lost a year.
Imagine that.
‘Fast Blue’ my best breeding cock mated with ‘Sissi’ my best breeding hen only gave rubbish. That is pigeon sport !

Your chances to get good birds are greater when buying summer breeds and…
Numerous people got famous with the off spring of birds that they got free.
In fact this is not real strange. If some one wants to give a present he wants to give something good as it comes from the heart.
When buying you should be sure the man from whom you want birds is honest.
Nobody can guarantee good birds but the least you can expect from the man that sells is that he does his best.
That’s why I always say ‘I do not understand why people look in the eyes of the pigeon they want to buy. They should look in the eyes of the fancier that sells them’.

Four years ago a man called Mattens phoned me.
‘Remember me?’ he said.
Of course I remembered him as in my pedigrees I normally put the names of fanciers from whom I bought birds.
And almost daily my eyes catch his name.
‘I am going to race pigeons again’ he said. ‘Do you have any birds for sale?’
‘No not for you’ I reacted.
Four days later I was on my way to Mattens with a little box in the car. In it was a son of so called ‘Creilman’ the best racer ‘Mattens’ ever gave.
‘This bird is for you’ I said to Mattens. ‘It is free.’
Two years ago he phoned me. ‘I have won a car with a baby off of your bird’ he said.
‘It is a fantastic breeder.’
Yes he got it free again.
The best bird I bred in 2002 is a child of a hen that I call ‘067’, an import.
I went to a Belgian fancier to buy a brother and a sister of a famous bird of his.
As I paid good money I got one bird free; 067 !!!!