The sick one
The resourcefulness of some fanciers in giving their pigeons names is remarkable.
There are the common, ordinary names like the 'Blauwe', the 'Kleine', the 'Witpen' and so on, but these don't show much ingenuity; they are not 'trendy'.
'Turbo', 'Mata Hari', 'Meteoor', 'Raket' are a bit more imaginative, and if you take everything that's written seriously then it's not just pigeons that had been entered into races.
There are those, who resort to different tactics to outwit the competition.
Geerts had his 'BUFFEL' (Buffalo) and his 'GIER' (Vulture), van Elsacker his 'WEZEL' (Weasel), the Houbens their 'BEER' (Bear), Schellekens had 'ADELAARS' (Eagles), the Janssens had besides their 'STIER' (Bull) a 'VOS' (Fox), Linssen had his 'MEEUW' (Gull), v d Hoek his 'ZWAAN' (Swan), van Wanroy raced with a 'SPIN' (Spider), a 'VALK' (Falcon) brought Tournier his fame and the Janssens didn't even shy away from entering a cycle racer, their 'MERCKX'.
Apparently some pigeons are also allowed to have some faults, although you will often read the opposite.
Hofkens won a string of first prizes with his 'EENOOG' (One Eye), but Dusee from Tilburg, Holland, went even further and in his time flew with a 'BLINDE' (Blind One).
And what do you think of the 'LAMME' (Lame One)?
That pigeon made van der Wegen famous in all corners of the world.
But do pigeons with one eye, even blind and lame ones seem capable of distinguishing themselves, the birds may apparently even have 'a screw loose'.
Otherwise, you wouldn't win first prizes with a 'DOLLE' (Mad One) or a 'GESCHIFTE' (Crazy One), like Van Geel and Hofkens did back then.
Desmet Matthijs had their 'GENAAIDE' (Stitched One), which might explain why I never dared buying pigeons there.
Some fanciers display certain arrogance as well.
A British ice-cream man named a pigeon 'INVINCIBLE', which seemed an odd name for a pigeon, of which nobody had ever known before his victory fromBarcelona.
But I learned from it. I also named one of my pigeons 'Invincible' and, oops, people were queuing to buy youngsters from that pigeon.
"What becomes of our pigeons?", you often read.
Simple; they are strangled by the 'MOORDENAARS' (Murderers) of Braakhuis, or blown to pieces by the 'KANON' (Canon) of Smeulders, or by the 'RAKET' (Rocket) of the Janssens.
I once had a very special pigeon too, 14 years old, completely worn out, but every year he was good for several first prizes.
I named her 'the sick one', and not one other pigeon in my loft has done so well for me as this old aunty. How can something like that be?
Don't pigeons even have to be energetic or healthy anymore?
I'm going to explain...
A real fancier knows that a pigeon is a herd animal. Pigeons attract each other, they seek each other out, imitate each other.
Some high buildings groan under the weight of the many hundreds of pigeons that seek shelter there.
On the buildings next to it there is sometimes not a bird in sight.
You can use the knowledge that pigeons attract each other to your own advantage.
When you loose a squeaker from the roof, it is sometimes sufficient to release a few old pigeons to get the bird back.
It also happens quite often that pigeons that don't return from a race come home the following weekend.
They continue their journey with the racing pigeons that fly over.
When I was a youngster I liked to catch pigeons, and I made use of the fact that they attract each other.
When a stray bird landed on the roof, I enticed it inside the loft with one of my own pigeons.
But I am digressing, back to my 'Sick One', that very old hen.
I don't really like speed races, they are too fast for me.
Flying a lap or two around the house when they return can make half a page of difference in the results.
In these races, it's often not a question of 'coming home early' but of 'coming in fast'. And as for encouraging pigeons into the loft, I had my 'Sick One'.
When I was waiting for pigeons to return from a race she would be sitting ready, and as soon as the first bird came into sight and I thought that it would not come in quickly enough, I would release her a few meters from the loft. Flapping furiously she landed on the trap, and that acted like a magnet.
When they spotted the 'Sick One' they came rushing down and inside.
That way I won top prizes that I wouldn't have won without the 'Sick One'.
Of course, such an enticer doesn't have to be a very old hen, a pigeon that wants to return to its nest as quickly as possible can be of service too.
Some fanciers clip a few flights or tie them up, so that the pigeon has difficulty with flying.
I chose a more animal friendly method, my 'Sick One', and now she isn't with me anymore I have other enticers.
You can be sure of such an enticer, which you can't be of a pigeon on a nest position.
It wouldn't be the first time that such a pigeon took off and kept the returning pigeons outside even longer, instead of encouraging them in.
What you shout at them then isn't fit for publication.
So, trouble with pigeons coming into the loft?
Why not try an enticer.
A fellow fancier experienced how important the speed of entering the loft is.
This fancier had a real wonder pigeon that would have won countless first prizes if he wouldn't have lost so much extra time before coming in. Every time he kept hanging about, in full view of all the spectators.
This fancier needed money, he wanted to sell his super pigeon, but nobody wanted to buy it.
'Would have won many first prizes but didn't come in quickly' is what he wrote on the pedigree card. Although it was the truth, nobody was interested in it.
The sad thing was that his neighbour, who was a rich man already, sold his pigeons effortlessly. His were pigeons without achievements, but from a certain 'breed'.
Some footballers also make team mates achieve better by helping them to score.
Something like that was what my 'Sick One' did, and what my enticers do now.
This is one of the articles which in the magnificent New Book 'The best of Ad Schaerlaeckens part 2' that will be published late summer 2011 by Peter Fox (Syndicate Lofts) England.