Give Him the Bird

What do Bill Owens and Bert from Sesame Street have in common? Pigeons.

"Here, this corner: Every day, every day, twenty, thirty kids would come: 'What are we going to do? Let's go to the orchard, steal some fruit!' Or, 'Do we have 22 guys? Let's play soccer...'"

"Here is where a friend of mine lived. He died of alcohol, too."

"Here is where I went to school, from seven years old to fifteen years old. One year I had to repeat."

Homeward bound: Adam Adugalski wants big money from his pigeons.
John Johnston
Homeward bound: Adam Adugalski wants big money from his pigeons.

"Here is the stream we used to go catch trout, by hand."

"Here is my house. And there, behind it, in the field, that's where we used to play Indians and cowboys; everyone had a slingshot."

"Everywhere you look, every street, I walked millions of times."

He points to small buildings along the route, usually behind a house. "There were pigeons here, pigeons here, everywhere pigeons. And here! Here! See this little house? This is where we kept our pigeons."

The prize money for winning big-time bird races is nice, and triumphing against the wealthy poseurs who enter 150 birds each race is particularly fun -- "The rich pigeon fucks, they just go and buy the most expensive pigeons," Adugalski sneers. "They don't breed. They just buy. And I still beat them."

But, he adds, that's not the best part of pigeon racing. Not at all. The best part is simply looking up to the sky and watching as the birds arrive, home at last after a long journey. "You see how they come," he says, "so sure of themselves, so strong, so confident. So happy they are home."

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