Not long ago a pigeon landed on my fence and started eating my parrot’s leftover food. It wasn’t just any pigeon, though, it was double ringed… a fully registered racing pigeon. He spent the day in our front yard and flew away again at night, returning every day for the next five days. I named him Herbie.
Early in the week, I did manage to read the upper ring with the website of the racing fraternity on it. We phoned and sent messages, with no real responses. It did mark the beginning, though, of what would turn out to be a brief insight into the world of pigeon racing.
Racing pigeons, it turns out, are a pretty big deal in South Africa. The most expensive pigeon on record was sold to South Africans for five million rand (over a quarter million pounds). Over the next few days of research, we learned how they’re registered and the traits for which they’re bred, looked up racing stats and checked recent pigeon velocities.
On several of the days Herbie wandered into the living room for a minute or two before heading back into the yard. As soon as we opened the door on the fifth day, Herbie ran into the house, hid himself behind my printer and refused to move. It was then we knew something more serious had to be done.
We finally managed to find an acquaintance who also races pigeons. He collected Herbie and forwarded him onto his original owner. Herbie was ill and needed medical care.
I was sad to see him go; Herbie was my only holiday visitor, and I enjoyed the “other-world” drama he brought with him.
Though it seems any ordinary life can be made extraordinary if one’s imaginative enough, inclusive of visiting pigeons or not. A few days later I came across a really heartwarming story of a couple who, despite living on very ordinary wages, amassed a priceless art collection by the end of their marriage, donating countless works to every state in the United States, and even more to National Gallery, where they had gone on honeymoon decades before. It was a project they had worked on together throughout the whole of their marriage, visiting galleries on weekends and making deals with artists.
The couple stopped collecting when the husband died at the age of eighty-nine.
His name was Herb.