pigeon Reflections on the Birmingham Rollerpigeons
I received my first Rollers at the age of ten. I am now in my middle “seventies” Except for a brief period for college, an unnamed war, and the marriage caper, I have had these exciting birds all my life. From the first day my interests were scientific. My questions drove my several mentors to distraction. Carl Graefe used to say, “don’t you ever run down?” The answer, of course is “No!”
My Roller notes compromise twenty linear feet of shelf space in my den. It would take years to read them. Are they of any value? I’m reminded of a remark after one of my speeches at a Regional Roller Show, made by a prominent member or Roller Pioneer lineage. He said, “Joe, you’ve learned more about the Roller than anyone ever wanted to know.” Well, I wanted to know.
As the years passed, my only contact with the Roller group was my continued membership in the Canton Roller Club. My contacts in the club were long standing and personal. Richard Krupke was my inspiration. C.M. “Mac” King, Roger Baker, Frank Dallas, Walley Fort and Russ Harter were my friends. During the lengthy arguments over “Dual Purpose” birds and the influence of late imports by William Pensom; the club was divided on most every topic. The development of flying contests was delayed years over the haggle about the number of birds in a kit. One faction wanted seven birds so as to accentuate the caliber and frequency of the deep roll. The other group wanted a twenty bird kit to demonstrate the uniformity of roll clearly identified with the English scoring by TURNS.
It took heated debates; raised blood pressures and a lengthy period of general hostility by members before the compromise of eleven birds per kit in flying competitions was reached. Until these two divisive topics appeared on the scene all Roller Club memories are of pleasant and wonderful experiences. I have always wondered if the beginnings of the “Sport’s Trash Mouth Era” which began in the same time period wasn’t, in part, responsible for the alienation of members that took place in pigeon clubs. After the death of Kurpke, I drifted away from my club and began a solo career with the Birmingham Roller. My excuse was “who wants to drive thirty miles to a club meeting to fight with a distasteful member of our hobby?” These difficulties are not unique to pigeon clubs. In one of our soccer leagues, parents must take a course in Anger Management, before they are permitted to attend matches. If you stop and think! Wow! This requirement is for the teams with seven and eight year old players. Yet, in a recent survey by a pigeon club with thousands of members on the reason for leaving the hobby, a very high percentage of those responding mentioned member hostility as a major cause for leaving the club or sport. It would appear the “MOUTH” problems in our midst have not disappeared. Maybe my analysis of the concern would be better expressed another day.
My isolation to a pigeon loft in Atwater, Ohio made it possible to research and test the genetics of pigeons using a base of only pure Roller strains. All the genetic information gathered in this period and published in the Pigeon Breeders Notebook: An Introduction To Pigeon Science in 1971 was developed in a Roller loft. My success in isolating and testing various mutants, especially the Bronzes, was due, in part, to a chance conversation.
It isn’t commonly known that many (if not most) American Roller breeders, for over fifty years, would not permit a blue bar, blue check or T-pattern in their loft. The resemblance of Roller ‘wild type’ to the common or feral pigeon which had a terrible image, just made the avoidance of these colorations by breeders who were publicizing, “my birds are not like those!” a practical choice. Well! In pigeon genetics wild-type (blue bar) is the base for comparison. It is measure of the norm. The previously mentioned “chance” occurred when I complained that there were no Rollers for me to use in my studies. Wally Fort came to my rescue. “I have a beautiful family of blue bars,” he said with a snicker. Yes! Yes! And Yippy! Wally’s blue bar family was both beautiful and mutant free. Each time I went to the loft my excitement grew. For nearly five years my total genetic concern was to raise more Fort blues. After testing the base blues for most of the known pigeon mutations, the only difference from wild-type observed was the original cock was carrying dilution and interspersed with the family were some silvers as bright in coloration as any I have seen.
My success was achieved! With twenty pairs of breeding blues, I could now match them with any coloration in the pigeon world and know that the differences produced in their progeny were from the test bird not the Roller base. It almost took longer to breed the stock of blues than it did to test the mutations listed in the Notebook.
I have been generally pleased that so many Roller breeders have taken up the study of pigeon genetics. I would have hoped the increased options in the breeding such knowledge provides, would be utilized by Roller breeders simply because all of my contributions to this field of study began in a Roller loft with a family of blues developed by Wally Fort. “Thanks, Wally!”
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