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Let's Get back on Track 

By Silvio Mattacchione

silvio@silvio-co.com
http://www.silvio-co.com/

Silvio Mattacchione How does one learn to see the world "outside the box"? How can we come to understand and appreciate that the general direction that the sport of pigeon racing is moving in may not be a positive one in terms of attracting new participants now and in the future? Our racing sport, in North America, is made up of thousands of individuals, (many hundreds of local clubs, many regional combines and federations and three National organizations to which all of the other aforementioned) belong. Worldwide our specific subculture numbers in the millions! Said individuals (all of the members of our greater sport) reflect, in their attitudes, preconceptions, desires and goals, the greater outside society at large, inclusive of all of its current misunderstandings, phobias, faults and graces. Over the years the racing pigeon sport, in its focus and virtually in its entirety, has moved in a direction that may be, diametrically opposed to all of those qualities that initially drew so many of our generation (1950s and 60s) into the sport as young children. Our sport may in fact be slowly dying.

I can hear so many of you mumbling, "What is this guy on about now? First he lectures us on 'Myths' then he lectures us on the importance of research and how 'culling' is clearly our fault in not doing what we need to do, then he attacks one of our most sacred cows 'eye sign' and if all of these writings are not enough to condemn this heretic fancier, recently I read how he questioned science itself, claiming that it had been 'hijacked by evolution' and now he has the audacity to tell us that our sport may be dying? This is the last straw, its just too much. We need to contact an exorcist! Clearly this man is possessed!  Is nothing sacred, is nothing off limits?"

Yes I am possessed, possessed of a great respect and fascination for our wonderful birds, for pigeons of all types, all breeds, all varieties and colors.

I and so many others are fascinated by performance pigeons, like our wonderful Racing Homers, by Rollers, Swifts and Tipplers. Fascinated by fancy pigeons like Show Homers, Modenas, Fantails, Satinettes, Owls and Turbits and equally fascinated by utility pigeons like Runts, Kings, Texan Pioneers and many other squab breeds. The total of pigeon varieties worldwide, now probably numbers close to 1000, breeding true to form. I enjoy them all enormously (I refrain from using the word love because that word needs to be purposely reserved for those things in life that are of a greater order of magnitude, more important to us like family, country, and God!)

Buttercup Show Racer
Figure 1 Buttercup Show Racer
Bred by Thomas Mattacchione.   

Over the past 60 or so years our world seems to have lost its direction, little by little, and racing pigeon fanciers, being part of this world, have also lost their direction, little by little. At first, the changes were so small as to be imperceptible, but as time has gone on there have been more and more changes to a greater and greater degree. I do not say to you that all change has been bad but neither has all change been positive or worthwhile. For the most part change has not in fact taken us all "from the dark and into the light!" Some would say that the very opposite is in fact the case.

If we have lost anything at all can we define it? In what sense do you mean that lose to have occurred? What has changed? How has it changed? Why has it changed? And finally can we now do anything to reverse the changes or rather more appropriately can we somehow strengthen those aspects of our hobby that initially drew us all into it?

Can we define what we have lost? Yes we can. We have lost our innocence, we have lost our childhood fascination, our ability to dream and to be totally captivated and engrossed in that dream, in the appreciation and awe felt for the birds themselves. The magic was not in us as handlers but rather in our birds. They liberated us, we soared the skies with them, we roamed with our youngsters to the edge of the horizon. In our youth, every bird was special, every flight an adventure, every bird filled us with awe.

When we were young every bird was a champion
Figure 2 When we were young every bird was a champion.

If only we could fly, if only we had such power to free ourselves of both space and time. Every day was an adventure, just me the birds, an open loft and an endless blue sky. Our parents, our neighborhoods, our local town councils encouraged the keeping of small animals (poultry, pigeons, rabbits, etc.) for all that they taught us. In order to keep our birds we needed to learn responsibility, punctuality, patience, perseverance, planning, biology, embryology, reading, math and the power to save every penny we earned to purchase feed and all of the necessities, in short an endless thirst for knowledge. Our birds helped to mold good, honest, hard working, dedicated citizens. If the truth be known (certainly in my case) our hunger for learning was often fueled by our fascination for our birds!

So it seems to me that we have lost our childhood innocence, our ability to look at every day, every bird, every moment as exciting, new, full of adventure. The entire world was good, the days were endless, the summers eternal and as much time was spent with our few birds as possible.

Pigeons were given as gifts, traded for, journeys were planned to meet fanciers both well known and not so well known. Day trips were glorious: get up early in the morning, drive to new suburbs, new towns and far away cities and in time foreign countries. In search of new pigeons? No, not really, more like the eternal search for good friends and camaraderie. That endless love of people, love of new fancier friends really was the key to our hobby. Is that what has generally been lost?

What we substituted in its place is a love of mammon commonly referred to as a love of money. Together with love of fame and intolerance based upon vanity and egotism. With open eyes let us look at what has happened to our sport. Where is the camaraderie? Recently I received an email, it had nothing to do with pigeons or our sport yet I recognized immediately what we have lost in our sport. Though I have no idea who wrote these actual words here is part of what he or she had to say,

"Friends are a very rare jewel, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share a word of praise, and they always want to open their hearts to us. Show your friends how much you care. Remember to always be there for them, even when you need them more… cherish the time you have, and the memories you share ... being friends with someone is not an opportunity but sweet responsibility."

In helping someone succeed you also succeed, in mentoring someone you plant the seeds of the future of our sport. Always work on the basis of "do onto others as you would wish for them to do onto you."

We have elevated our personal egos above the importance the real heroes and the real athletes, that is, our birds. We have elevated our personal egos and our absolute need to win 1st at all costs to an extent that one fancier, a few years ago, bragged that nothing other than 1st was even worth contemplating his exact words were "2nd place is the 1st of the losers."! This man, I assure you, lives in a thick fog the likes of which not even the joy of his birds can drag him out of. But in his case the reality was this; his attitude was such that he had always been a loser. In many cases the absolute need to win at whatever cost, is a totally unhealthy obsession that destroys our sport.

What have we done and what are we doing on a continuing basis to recognize a certain caliber or level of performance? The establishment of a benchmark that birds achieve that counts regardless of 1st place or 50th place! Five hundred mile day birds are to be cherished regardless of who placed 1st or who placed 50th because it is indicative of the achievement of a level of quality that is not the norm. Where pray tell, do you see the appreciation of the quality and Herculean efforts that our birds so exhibit just to come home, often under unbearable physical and atmospheric conditions and unforgiving terrain. The worst is that this warrior of the airwaves often comes home to an unforgiving master who never sees fault in himself nor his abilities or lack of same but rather is only too prepared to see his misfortune in his birds, in everything but his own incompetence. Always look to yourself first, have you done your very best, have you listened rather than spoken, have you studied rather than criticized, have you scraped the loft and fed the birds rather than wallowing in a never ending glass of ale?

Our sport in both Canada and the USA is dying. I believe because we have become fixated on our sport as a business. We no longer generally see and appreciate our birds, the families developed by our fathers long ago, the friendships are now secondary to what has become a need to win at all costs. Our children are no longer given free access to our backyards because they might just frighten the birds. The moment the love of the bird becomes secondary to our own desperate need to win at all costs, that very moment begins the process of decay. In order to revive our sport we need to revive our fascination for pigeons, all pigeons and we need to rediscover the role that friendship originally played in founding our hobby. There was a reason that our sport was the perfect family hobby.

Pigeons are living art, intended to relieve some of the stress in our lives rather than adding stress to our lives! Whether long beak or short beak, large or extremely small stature, ruffled feather, frilled or frizzled feather, crests, hoods or no feathers each is only a variety and regardless of how it looks or acts or performs it never ceases to be a pigeon. Generally speaking pigeon fanciers, once upon a time, were artists, each working in his own private back yard to create what each of us thought to be perfection. When we become artists again rather that aspiring entrepreneurs, when we feel the joy of just watching pigeons fly (and encouraging our children and grandchildren to do the same), on that day we can truly have hope for our sport and on that day we will be back on track.


Racing Pigeons Section Contents

Ashdon Farms

Background on Silvio Mattacchione, his pigeons, his loft, and inbreeding program.

Articles

A group of articles and editorials addressing various aspects of the sport of pigeon racing and the history of Silvio's line of Spanjaards/Janssens pigeons.

Pigeon Books

Buy fantastic pigeon books online! Selections include The Will to Prepare by Robert Kinney, Rotondo on Racing Pigeons by Joseph Rotondo, and The Pigeon Guide by Dr. Jon Esposito and Shannon Hiatt.

Pigeons For Sale

Some of Silvio Mattacchione's own winning stock is for sale.

Pigeon Consulting

Sivio Mattacchione offers a wide range of racing pigeon consulting services and consults with owners as far away as Australia, Mexico, Taiwan, The Philippines and the United States. Each consultation is tailored specifically to meet the client's needs, and is conducted in as thorough a manner as possible.

Charity Events

Good causes supported by Silvio and the racing pigeon and parrot communities.

Emoticons

Clever pigeon pictures constructed of keyboard strokes by artist Jerry Downs.

Pigeon Links

Links to other racing pigeon sites including those of clubs, products, and information resources. An easy way to navigate a series of pigeon web sites!

Contact Us

Silvio's e-mail, mail, phone, and fax contact information.


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