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4. Backspin Classic
~ Prologue ~

“Integrity means everything to me. That’s what my father had taught me when I was a young’un. If anyone asked me how I would like to be remembered in the Roller hobby, I would say I want to be remembered as a man of integrity because if you don’t have integrity, you have nothing! After I am gone, if people say I flew some decent Rollers, that would be fine, too. But I would like to be remembered as a man of integrity.” This was the reply of James Turner of Greenwood, South Carolina, when asked how he would want to be remembered among the Roller Pigeon community.

I had heard a lot about James Turner way before I had a chance to meet him in person. Now I can call James a friend, which makes me one of the luckiest Roller men in the world. He is also a mentor and definitely a very inspiring role model for me when it comes to being a productive Roller pigeon hobbyist. James and I have many things in common, but one of them is the main reason why our paths crossed. We both strive to improve the quality of the performance of Rollers and their looks while promoting the hobby to others. Promoting the hobby by producing and sharing the best quality of birds has always been one of the main goals of James. He never forgets the hard times, finding good Rollers and the unwillingness of others to help him when he first got started. This is exactly the reason why James dedicated his last 30-plus years to sharing the best of his birds and all his extensive knowledge about Rollers with anyone who wants to acquire them.

James has been my hero even before I met him because of his accomplishments in the hobby, especially with his unmatched success—breeding color into Rollers. This is exactly what I was trying to do on my own before I met James. I never imagined I would be lucky enough to meet him in person one day. Meeting him in person literally saved me 30 years of work when he shared his perfected family of Rollers with me along with his extensive experience and wisdom. James is a unique-minded and dedicated individual in the hobby; thus arguably, his success and his fame are far from coincidence. James was National Birmingham Roller Club (NBRC) president. He is also one of the NBRC Hall of Famers. He was a top contender every competition he was in, but most people know him by his revolutionary accomplishment: putting show bird colors into his Rollers when no one knew it was possible. These dual purpose Rollers have become known to be beautiful to look at but just as good or better performers as the traditionally colored birds. The exceptional performing ability of Rollers is what attracts the hobbyist to this breed, but James made everyone’s dream come true when he introduced exceptional colors into his Rollers while not only maintaining but also improving their aerial performance. The best part of it all was once he completed the cross, he shared both accomplishments with anyone who wanted them.

The unmatched success of James in breeding and flying color Rollers has made a handful of individuals jealous. That merely makes them look small minded to most Roller fanciers. Many people believe that James Turner is one of the greatest men in the hobby. This is specifically true for the privileged individuals who had the pleasure of meeting him in person. His fame goes far beyond his role in the NBRC and his winning records; James is known to be one of the most generous Roller breeder in the hobby, graciously sharing his best stock and/or proven birds, especially with the beginners. If you ever have the opportunity to look at him when he gives you one his birds, you can see in his eyes that James is fueled by helping people and sharing his best birds with them; unlike most people in the hobby, he seems to get a unique satisfaction of helping others. “When you give somebody a bird, if you don’t feel hurt thinking you just gave one of your best performing birds to them, then you are not truly promoting the hobby and helping that person. Nothing gives me more pleasure than giving good birds to people and making them happy,” says James Turner.

Every year James is not able to raise enough Rollers for the demands he receives from fanciers on a daily basis. In fact, for a long period of time, James was having a hard time flying two-year-old Rollers because by the time his birds prove themselves in the air, either the people who are visiting his house or the other strangers who would call him on the phone from all over the U.S. would receive them by mail. All they have to do is pay the shipping cost when James has birds to share. For the last 30 years, this unmatched generosity of James put him way above and beyond most pigeon breeders. His experience and knowledge in Roller Pigeon’s performance and pigeon genetics also go far beyond average pigeon breeders, yet James does not mind sharing all his knowledge and experience with anyone who wants to learn. Contribution and promotion of the Roller Pigeons are some of the main goals of James, and he will forever be remembered for these inspiring roles.

The above picture is drawn by Alan Turcotte in 1997 in appreciation for receiving a Brander Bronze Roller from James Turner.

In addition to his generous personality, James also spends countless hours on the phone with strangers and with his friends. James strikes everyone he meets with his honesty and down to earth personality right off the bat. That honesty and the integrity that he values so much have provided the foundation for the deep respect and admiration he receives from his peers. Ever since I had the pleasure of meeting James in person, I was very impressed with his willingness to spend time with me and explain things in a way I can understand. He would wait and listen for me to finish what I had to say; he would then tell me his opinion about the subject in a way that made me feel he respected me, even as a novice breeder, even if he didn’t agree with me 100%. This pragmatic personality of James allows anyone who talks to him not to be intimidated by his legendary fame in the hobby but to respect and take to heart everything he has to say. He makes you feel like you can talk to him about anything and never feel ridiculed by him as he never talks down to people or acts like he knows it all. When James was a young man and met the NBRC hall of famer Wally Fort, he never forgot the way Wally had treated him. James, now in his mid-seventies, is no different than his inspiration Wally Fort—socializing and sharing his expertise with anyone who wants to learn or chatting about pigeons but treating everyone with equal respect. He enjoys showing and teaching beginners the way he breeds and flies his birds. He always reminds people that his way is not the only way, but that’s how he does it. He never tells anyone what they should do with their birds. He tells them, instead, what he would do, and he encourages them to make their own decisions at the end of the day. James also has a talent for simplifying pigeon genetics to anyone with any background knowledge and makes anyone understand how to reproduce certain colors. He also enjoys some deep conversations with veteran fliers about performance and conversations with scientists about color genetics. Over the years, I have witnessed fanciers of all ages and backgrounds really appreciate listening to his amassed wealth of knowledge and experience. When James speaks, everyone listens. Without a doubt, some pigeon breeders like James Turner are exceptionally knowledgeable about what they are doing in their backyard, but the best thing about guys like James is that they simply don’t mind sharing all of their experience with the public, which in turn puzzles some people. It is not unusual to meet some folks in the hobby saying: “These veterans don’t want to tell us everything because they don’t want us to beat them with their own birds; there must be something they are keeping as a secret.” I can tell you from my personal experience, and believe me, I have met a few hall of famers, they all want to share everything they know so that the others, especially the newcomers, can improve and fly better birds. Thus, when some people assume veterans don’t want to help them, they are simply projecting that this is what they would have done if one day, they gain all this knowledge and experience.

From his early childhood, James was always fascinated by reproducing something he had liked. He was always curious about animal breeding and tried different things to learn the ropes at a time when there were not many genetic books available to the public. I think people like James live for that challenging feeling of satisfaction. If someone would dare to tell him, “You can’t do that! That’s not possible!” he would at least try to see if it was actually possible. When James was told that there could not be dual-purpose Rollers—birds with top quality performance and variety of exotic colors—he decided to challenge that idea. “When I first started to do the color projects, people made remarks that I was wasting my time because I could never get them to spin. But some of them said if I ever make them spin, they would want one. They didn’t mind giving me a hard time and laughing at me, but they all wanted one if I could make them spin. When I first started with my genetic projects, nobody took them seriously,” said James. He soon realized he could breed any color he wanted into his performing birds and make them spin just as well as the others. Surely many people before him had tried this, and after a few generations of breeding, the conclusion was that it couldn’t be done. Unlike his predecessors with their half-hearted efforts, James used scientific breeding methods and completed the cross projects for at least seven generations of back-to-back crossing. The results were remarkable.

When you finish reading this book, I certainly hope you will understand why James Turner’s unmatched accomplishments had to be told. James is a person who will not talk much about himself or about his pigeons unless somebody asks him a direct question. Integrity means everything to him, and when you ask him a question, you will get nothing but an honest answer whether you like it or not. Even then, he would hardly brag about himself or his birds even though no one I know works harder than he does to perfect the performance of his Rollers. He would rather have someone else talk about him or his birds, so I nominated myself for the job. I have also interviewed numerous people in the hobby to get accurate information about James Turner. Many thanks to everyone who participated in the creation of this book.

Without further ado, I give you James Turner – MY HERO!

All rights reserved (c) August, 2015 by Arif Mümtaz.


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