Watching the Sport Die?
Change the Channel!
by Steve Lawler, AU Past President
The Grange Hall meeting room in extreme NW Washington was filled with parents, tweeners, and teenagers busily setting-up wire cages and filling them up, while others carried in box after box of drawing prizes and bags and boxes overflowing with brunch snacks and proper lunch fixin’s. Even though the sun shone brightly outside on this fine Spring morning, it was no match for the brilliant enthusiasm exhibited in that hall.
Quicker than you can say “Jack Robinson,” several youngsters, stationed at two tables, were being quizzed by two young judges and were providing detailed and impressive facts in response to some difficult questions. Parents sat up close and hung on every word that these bright young people expounded. Their poise and subject knowledge were impressive.
Immediately afterward, five of the older members made quality presentations accompanied by informative charts, sharp photos and precise powerpoints.
Who are these guys?
What is so exciting indoors to keep Northwesterners INSIDE on a SUNNY day?
They are the Thunderbirds and SkyPilots of greater Whatcom County and King and Snohomish counties in western Washington.…they like homing pigeons and they are our future. AND, they haven’t heard the Pigeon Little cry that “the sky is falling” from the older generation of pigeon flyers. These youngsters are NOT holding on for dear life to a dying sport…..dying shmying! That outlook is reserved for those unwilling to make positive changes and go forth to share the joy and excitement this hobby brings. They are PROOF POSITIVE that young people are indeed interested in animals, in general, and pigeons, in particular. They live in every town, city, county, and state of the country.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of Jerry and Evelyn Guilmette of Bellingham and Herb Cartmell of Woodinville, WA and their respective county agents, the 4-H / AU Junior Flyer program is growing so fast that bigger facilities and more and more babies are needed to fill the demand of these young flyers eager to compete with the locals at their own game.
Compare that exciting scenario to the status of decline in most pigeon clubs around the area, and in many areas of the country, and the logical conclusion is????
As soon as the presentations finished, we were off to a scrumdilicious lunch with all the trimmings (procured by Marty Sullivan) and some bad-boy cupcakes (from Mrs. Strand) for dessert. All part of the club fundraiser and included in the small price of admission and ably collected by Evelyn Guilmette and Marlene Cartmell at the front table.
Up next was a very informative powerpoint presentation by Herb Cartmell on Loft Construction with some accompanying great pictures Herb’s taken over the years while serving on the national AU Board.
The absolute highlight of the event, however, was “blue ticket” drawing: All day long the 20 or so young fanciers in attendance (please note that this was an all day Saturday event and many had to schedule around soccer matches, dance recitals, and baseball games, etc.) had been scoping-out the over 50 squeakers housed in the show cages. Everyone had their favorites and back-ups listed and were poised to spring into action as soon as their number was drawn. The drama was intense as first one baby, and then another found a spot in the dozen or so crates spread out behind the anxious juniors. The groans were audible as favorites were selected by “luckier” ticket-holders. Blacks and whites and grizzles and reds and splashes went first, leaving most of the checks and plain old blue bars for the final rounds. A check of the race sheets later this year will show the real value of those later rounds.
By the time the dust cleared, every junior in the room had 3-4 youngsters to take home for settling. Chances were that many of those babies would spend at least the first night in the bedroom!
A big thanks goes out to Dave and Samantha (Sam), Breann, and Cheyenne Long of Spirit Lake, ID and the L and L Breeding Station for supplying the biggest draft of 33 babies brought clear across the state for distribution to the members of the Thunderbirds and SkyPilots. The Long’s are interested in forming a junior club (with AU dues paying parents and AU dues paying mentors) in their north Idaho - Stateline, WA area. A big effort was made to travel all the way to Lynden, WA to see these two growing groups in action.
Sam made the trip over (father Dave and sisters, Breann and Cheyenne, were in New Orleans that weekend) escorting the babies and caring for them until they found their new homes. She also made a couple of donations to the junior club treasuries by buying the breeding pair donated by Thunderbird leader, Jerry Guilmette, and one of the pedigreed YB’s donated by Concourse President, Ski Grabanski. Sam hopes to raise winners out of this new stock.
Thanks also need to go to Ski and Eileen Grabanski, who made the trip from the Greater Seattle area, bringing a basketful of babies for the juniors. Ron Pate of the Pahrump Breeding Station also sent along a big Express Mail box of babies for distribution. Ron has been supporting this SkyPilot junior club program with babies from the very beginning. And, thanks to Thunderbird leader, Jerry Guilmette, for donating some youngsters.
The wonderful day ended with a “yellow ticket” drawing of donated items from pigeon supplies from Siegel’s, Jedd’s and Tradewinds Feed to jars of honey to a pair of pigeon bookends from the legend, Elwin Anderson’s collection.
Bottomline, of course, is that growth and renewed enthusiasm is contagious. Doing something positive is always better than whining and complaining about the status quo and condemning those who are willing to step out, re-invest in the sport and make a difference. If you find yourself on the wrong side of this equation, please get out of the way and allow good things to happen in your club and in the sport.
- Steve Lawler
|Another photo album by Smilebox|