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Remarkable remarks (part one of two)

Throughout the ages people have made remarks that have become historic.
Think about Shakespeare (‘to be or not to be’), Julius Caesar (‘Veni, Vidi, Vici’)
Kennedy (‘I am from Berlin’) and in more recent years Clinton ‘I never had sex with that woman’.
I was so privileged as to have met or even known quite well famous champions in pigeon sport. Some of them also made remarks to me or to others that are worth considering, as they were o so true and educational for all those who fancy this sport.
In fact this is not strange. Champions do the right things, if not they would not be champions: As the winner is always right we better listen to them.
Maybe the champions I am referring to are not that famous abroad but the question is who is to blame. The champions themselves?
I do not think so. I think it is the press or some press men.
In pigeon sport unfortunately famous names in Holland or Belgium may be completely unknown abroad whereas people who mean nothing in their home country manage to build up a great name abroad.
They may mean nothing in the sport but they have other qualities.
They are good businessmen in many cases.
They know the power of the press and exploit it by dancing intimately with some pressmen who will make them big later on.
Here we go:

Never heard about De Laere? Honestly speaking me neither.
Till he became National Champion of Belgium (2002) as now his name was in all the papers. When somebody new races good, not to talk about being the best of Belgium, foreigners would like to know what strain such a man races.
Most Belgians and Dutchmen are also curious.
But they are not interested in the bloodline as they are more immune for the strain mania that infected so many people abroad.
What they are interested in then?
They want to know about the construction of the lofts, the way birds are kept and motivated, the medical side maybe or… secrets.
But the last thing is what novices and losers are looking for.
‘Secrets’ is a word one should skip from the vocabulary of pigeon fanciers.
When this De Laere was asked ‘how come you raced so good recently?’ he did not expose a so-called secret but what he said was interesting though.
De Laere:
‘I heard and read so much good about an aviary that I also put all my birds in an open aviary in which they were exposed to wind, rain and cold after the racing season. That was three years ago. I wanted to find out if it was true this was the best way to harden them and to build up immunity.
The result was breath taking. When I got the birds out of the aviary I was astonished to see their amazing condition.
I am sure I owe my result to this method.
Of course my birds are kept differently when they are being raced. Then I try to make their home (the loft) as comfortable as possible.
And it is indeed the lofts that intrigue the greater part of the fanciers in Holland and Belgium, as they know how important the environment is for a good condition. I myself saw lofts in England, America, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Japan and recently also in China. I felt sorry for the fanciers. They do everything they can to get good birds, they invest money in birds but do not realise how important the environment is. It absolutely does not make sense to buy even the best birds of the world and put them in a loft with a climate that is not good later on.

One of the greatest connoisseurs of all time in our sport is the late Jan Grondelaers. Lots of present day champions claim it is from him that they have learnt
how to be a winner.
Grondelaers was an authority who knew the ins and outs of the sport.
How else could he race so well all his life?
Being a champion for one or two years is one thing but being a champion for decades is requires a real good pigeon man such as Jan Grondelaers.
One of his qualities was that he knew where to get good birds and he was often asked why he was nearly always successful with birds he imported.
In his opinion you should import sprint birds.
‘Also for greater distances?’ I asked him once. ‘Sure’ he reacted.
Short distance winners have proven to orientate well and that is the most important quality a pigeon should have.
A real strong bird that can handle even 1,000 kilometres and strong head winds is of no use if he fails to orientate well.
And that is not it.
Suppose one bird could fly faster than another (I doubt if that is so) what sense would that make if he would fly the wrong direction?
Winners from short distance races are birds that have proven their orienteering is perfect.
If, after the release, a bird will fly only one round this is fatal.
If, after the release, a bird would head home together with others (in the wrong direction) this would be fatal too even if it was only for say five kilometres as it is only seconds that are decisive for the result at short distance.
Joining other birds that fly the wrong direction is what bad pigeons do.
Right from the start, directly after the baskets are opened, birds must go as bullets that leave a rifle. Those that make the straightest line from one point to the other (from the release station to the home loft) will be the winners.
And Grondelaers set the example himself.
He had always had good birds but after he had crossed them with Sprint birds from Hofkens (‘Eenoog’) and Staf van Reeth (‘Daniel’) so multiple first prize-winners at short distance he even got better birds.

Of course he did not mean that good orienteering alone would do for long distance but it is a basic quality for all good birds.

If it is true that all pigeons develop the same speed indeed? That is for another issue.

In December 2002 the pigeon world was shocked by the sudden death of Belgian Ace Flor Vervoort. This retired teacher got famous for successfully racing hens.
It was especially ‘Fieneke’ (a hen named after his wife) that made him great. This hen is often described as ‘the best in history’ though this does not mean much. Many birds are described as ‘the best in history’.
‘Fieneke’ was a wonder bird though and her unbelievable record even on National level stunned the whole of Belgium. She was a descendant of a bird that was in my opinion(!) the best ever: ‘Olieman’ from van der Veken. I wrote about this bird before.
When I asked Vervoort how come he was so outstanding his answer was:
‘I put my birds in the dark for at least 20 hours per day. They only see daylight when training and by the end of the week. Birds should be calm and easy as much as possible when they are in their lofts. They need their energy when being raced. Then they must explode.
And the best way to keep birds calm and easy is to put them in the dark. The fact that such birds do not moult also helps.’
So far Flor Vervoort.
When others heard about this method they did the same, some were successful, others were not. The reason is simple. You need good birds as well. No method will help you any further if the birds are no good. But Vervoorts method cannot be bad as, here we go again, the winner is always right.

To have Klak as a friend is a privilege and I am one of those few lucky ones.
Sometimes he came to my house to see my birds come home from the National Orleans race and I have clocked his birds for years as he was unable to do that because of his poor health.
Do I write this to push his birds? I do not.
First of all I do not race Klakbirds and secondly the demand for his pigeons is far higher than the supply. So he does not need publicity.
Especially in the USA, Japan, Germany and of course Holland his birds have always been immensely popular and still are.
Despite his enormous successes for decades he never got the thick neck some fellow champions get, nor did he get their arrogance, on the contrary:
He was simple and stayed simple all his life. As far as I know he is also the only one who kept the good old Janssenbirds pure and… he is one of the very few fanciers in Holland and Belgium who successfully races natural.
To beat widowers with birds that are raced on the nest is a matter of training he says.
Klak is also known for the fact that he has a fixed price for all his young birds.
Most champions have special prices for babies from special pairs but not Klak.
When a fancier wants to buy his babies he can have them when Klak has them ready regardless the parents they are from.
‘Who is first is first’ Klak always says.
It stands to reason that he was often asked questions about this.
Then his reaction was. ‘Also the best birds may give totally worthless children. On the other hand yearlings that still have to prove everything, birds with no references at all, may give supers. Take my ‘613’. He was one of the best racers I ever had since I raced birds and that is for about 65 years.
I was so lucky as to have his parents in my loft for many years. They produced only one ‘613’ though.
Honestly speaking I made his youngsters more expensive for some foreign businessmen as I am not so stupid as they may think.
It happened that I sold his direct children and later on I found that they sold their off spring, so grandchildren of 613, for a 10 times higher price than I charged them for direct children.
But normally I have one fixed price for all my youngsters indeed.
So-called ‘Golden Couples’ make me laugh.
I may say I had many superior racers in my career but in 65 years’ time I only had one pair that was worth the name ‘Golden Couple’.
Those were ‘Vechter’ and ‘Witpenneke’ (‘Fighter’ and ‘White flight).

All those who are familiar with the Janssens from Arendonk know that it was the late Adriaan who was the real fancier.
Louis was and is the businessman, Charel scraped the lofts and took care of feeding and stuff, Jef did the ‘dirty work’ but the real manager was Adriaan.
When he was alive there were no pigeon programs that stored information in the computer but if ever there has been one person who did not need a computer for that it was Adriaan. Without any hesitation he would mention the parents and grandparents of any bird in the loft as well as the results. His ideas did not differ much from those of Klak.
‘A pair that gives one real super during all those years they are mated is a Golden Pair for me. The problem of many fanciers is that they think too soon they have a Super.’
When people reproached Janssen Brothers the high prices they charged he said:
‘It is not us who make the price but the buyers.‘

The legendary Adriaan Janssen


Dr. Marien is one of the vets in Belgium who is specialised in pigeons but apart from that he is a dedicated fancier as well.
And vets that have the guts to join the races are admirable.
If they race well people will say:
‘No wonder he is a vet. He knows the means how to get birds in good shape.’
In case of poor results people will say:
‘How come that man races so poorly? His pigeons must be in bad shape and as he is not able to improve their condition he just cannot be a good vet.
In fact vets who join the races cannot do any good.
Dr. Marien not only races well but is also known for the fact that he hates medicine. Fanciers who consult him often go home without any medicine.
Many vets are different. After having consulted them fanciers often go home with a full bag and a purse that is empty.
Dr. Marien:
‘Sometimes I feel sorry for fanciers who visit me with their birds. Very often nothing is wrong with them, they just lack quality. In that case I do not prescribe medicine but I talk to the owner and choose my words carefully because fanciers do not want to hear that their birds are no good.
This has already cost me clients. They went to another vet who does prescribe medicine. But I do not care much.
Sooner or later most of them face the painful truth and will come back to me again.