Wednesday, July 14, 2010


2010 Texas Center Pigeon Convention is in Fort Worth this week

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Ron Caram knows why people get attached to racing pigeons.

"They become your children," said Caram, who is helping coordinate the 2010 Texas Center Pigeon Convention.

About 175 "pigeon parents" will attend the convention in Fort Worth this week. And many will pit their kids against one another in Friday's race, a 200-mile adventure that will begin in New Braunfels.

None of Edwin Lane's pigeons are racing, but he's the surrogate dad to many that are.

Lane, one of about 20 members of the convention-hosting Rodeo City Racing Pigeon Club, has one of seven lofts that are temporary homes to birds that are participating in the race. As the handler for several dozen of them, he said he'll get a familiar adrenaline rush as they return to his Burleson loft on race day."It gets pretty wild watching the birds come in, even when they're not my birds," Lane said. "I put all the work into them and, if the results come out well, it means I did something right."

Having bred and trained pigeons since he was a kid, Lane said he guesses "it just got out of hand."

The loft he intended to be a 10-by-12-foot building quickly became a 16-by-40, said Lane, who is training homing pigeons for enthusiasts from as far away as Hawaii.

"It started growing while Ronnie [Caram] and I were building it together," he said.  Caram said the fascination that makes people go to such lengths to raise and train homing pigeons is global.  "Go to Holland, Belgium and Germany, and you'll see it's a way of life," he said. "It's a family deal that's passed down to sons and daughters. They race every day, and it's big money."

Caram said that pigeons' determination to return to wherever they're raised is a mystery. But people have exploited that talent for centuries.

"A lot of people think that GI Joe was a man," he said. "It was a pigeon, a decorated war hero. There were four of them decorated by the U.S., France and England in World War II . . . "

. . . Hundreds of homing pigeons will climb into the sky over New Braunfels about 6:30 a.m. on race day, said Hilmar Sibley, race secretary. Carried to the release point on a large trailer, they will soar northward roughly 200 miles to reach the lofts they've been trained to find in Burleson, Cedar Hill, Joshua, Mansfield, Venus and Waxahachie. 

As each bird enters its coop, a sensor reads the band on its leg and registers the time. Lane said he and other handlers will carry the recording modules to the convention, where a computer will upload the data and determine the fastest birds.

Birds that clock in the top 20 percent earn points that accumulate through the race season, Sibley said.
Top-performing pigeons are the big payoff for owners. Lane said that breeders will pay as much as $40,000 for a fast bird and that its offspring can sell for as much as $5,000.

It's understandable, then, why pigeon people are paying $150 each to attend the convention. Seminars include experts on breeding long-distance fliers and on pigeon nutrition.

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