The State Journal-Register featured AU member Bill Leskovisek. The photo was taken by Dave Bakke.
Excerpt: Bill Leskovisek is the biggest pigeon fan this side of Bert from Sesame Street. Sometime today, some of Bill’s racing pigeons will arrive at Bill’s home in Virden after a 500-mile flight from Oklahoma City.
Sometime tomorrow, other racing pigeons Bill owns will arrive at Bill’s home in Virden after a 650-mile flight from Shamrock, Texas.
The racers have computer-coded bands on their legs. When one lights at Bill’s pigeon pen, the band will be scanned, just as if the bird was a bag of celery on the checkout conveyor belt at the Piggly Wiggly, and the time of its arrival will be recorded. Owners with birds in the race will then compare times to see which bird won.
Bill’s Most Memorable Pigeons Numbers One and Two: He and his brother, Sonny Leskovisek, got their first two pigeons when they were just kids. Their father brought them two “barn pigeons.” Those aren’t racing pigeons, but “that got me going,” Bill says. He and Sonny named those two pigeons Mama and Papa.
Bill was about 10 when he got into the pigeon game. He’s 78 years old now. That’s a lot of pigeons.
At one time, Auburn, Bill’s hometown, had more pigeon fanciers per capita than any other town in the United States. There are only a handful of true pigeon people remaining in central Illinois. Most have died.
Bill’s Most Memorable Pigeon Number Three: She was a yearling hen known only by her band number, 1449. What did you think, he named them all? He got this one from “Bone” Helms, who was a butcher in Auburn. Bone didn’t like that bird. Bill did.
“I liked something about its personality,” he says. “Pigeons have personalities. Oh yes, just like dogs and people.”
That pigeon made it home from Oklahoma City in a day, making it what they call a “day bird.” This was about 30 years ago.