Thursday, May 14, 2015

Lloyd “Bud” House




By Coop Kohli (

Lee Kohli, AU Lakes Zone Director

Another Crazy Pigeon Flyer over 80!

“Anybody that has raced pigeons since 1948 (62 years), ought to be declared a mental case shouldn’t they,” I thought to myself.  “What’s with these eighty-year-olds anyway?”  Interviewing this new crop of 80-somethings is different than I thought it would be.  They have a lot of ambition and lots on their minds.  They talk fast.  They are busy.  They can hear more than me.  (I rely on hearing aids!)  They are coherent, energetic, and almost ornery.  They don’t act old.  Some of them I catch on extension ladders.  Others are making meal deliveries to “shut-ins.”  At the time of this interlude, old Bud was on his hurried way out the door to choir practice at church: had to leave in 10 minutes - time was short - get to the point, was the tone, gently made.  (Wow, you mean Bud can still sing, I thought!)  At 57, I was off guard; and found myself fumbling like a rookie corporate salesman late for a Monday morning tiger meeting.  But “I’m no rookie”.  I caught myself, collected my composure, and fired back.  “How bout I just call you later, when you have more time, Mr. Bud,” I humbly requested.

Patty Keeps Bud Winning

And, so went my introduction to the octogenarious, Mr. Lloyd “Bud” House, of Vienna, Ohio, a determined and dedicated old sportsman that hadn’t missed shipping an old bird pigeon race since 1961, and who is the reigning Steel Valley Section Champion of the 2009 Ohio-Penn Federation 400, flying against 1615 birds and 133 lofts.  Bud’s big, rust-belt tough, blue cock-bird (481 LCF IF 05), was a four year old, two-time race winner, bred by OPC President Fred Roscoe, scoring previous wins for Bud in 300 and 400 mile old bird combine races.  Bud clocked the cantankerous alpha cock at 18:27:58 (06:27 P.M.), flying at 1034 ypm, for 422 miles.  Every good pigeon flyer needs competent assistance at one time or another, and it can mean the difference between success or failure for the season, since weekly racing schedules provide no quarter for lofts making mistakes.  Providing that service for Bud is his daughter, Patty, who lives only three miles from the lofts, and can do nearly everything the good old Champion can do, from answering E-mail, to banding babies and training young birds.  She loves the birds dearly, and has been known to shed tears on their behalf when she thought it would help influence the decisions of our incorrigible, managing Champion.  It is, apparently, almost commonplace for exciting events of one sort or another to overtake the pigeon operation whenever Pigeon Patty oversees while Bud and Gerri are away.  Papa Bud knows he couldn’t race like he does without the participation and moral support of his daughter, Patty.

All the residents of the House loft race on the natural system.  “It is difficult to get the timing perfect, but to max the hormones and really hype performance,” the old strategist’s favorite nest position is with 13 day old eggs, and, as we saw with the very motivated “481”, “it is also very hard for competitors to beat a seasoned cock-bird feeding a big youngster, who is also just beginning to drive his hen.”  (The window of opportunity for pulling off this effective psychological drama is very, very slight though, for as we know, a hyped-up, twister cock can go from “just calling” his hen to “hard driving” very quickly, burning off that limited race energy in the process.)  Like many of his long distance peers, as the races get longer, the wise, old man with the pigeons, Mr. House, changes his feeding routine; up to 40% corn is supplemented, to which he also adds black sunflower seeds (liking the oil as fuel) and peanuts, feeding all birds in the protected turf of their box.

“Putting Lipstick on Pigs”

I would never lump every breeder into just one category because I know there are some very legitimate, well intentioned, hard laboring providers of outstanding genetics out there, that we should continue to support with our dollars.  We have all dealt with them.  We need them.  We are thankful to them for their service to the sport in uplifting the overall quality of our birds, and we take pleasure in seeing their monthly ads.  Our racing fortunes have improved because of them.  They also have lots of my money in their pockets.

However, there are, also, scallywags in the racing universe that “strategically enhance” the appearance of what they are selling, providing the fancy with pedigreed birds that aren’t as good as they say they are.  These frauds hurt us all, and should not be supported.  They can delay your genetic improvement for years, and that’s time you don’t have to lose!  They insult us with pedigrees that include little current performance data, providing only generalities like “has produced hundreds of winners”.  They expect you to get excited because a great-grandfather, or two, each representing 12.5% of the total gene pool, had a good futurity race.  Forget it.  They’re “putting lipstick on pigs.”

Buy breeding stock supported with current, specific performance data that has relevance to the races you intend to participate in.  (Look for information providing for who, what, where, when, and how many).  If old bird long distance racing is where you want to excel, look for stock from fanciers that are good at long distance racing.  Expect good information that can be verified.  Good historical data takes discipline, time and energy to assemble and maintain.  It is also hard to format that information on pedigree forms, but progressive breeding operations will find a way to provide what is demanded of them by serious, inspecting, well informed customers.  Every long surviving businessman in America has these instincts.  In the business world, it is commonly said that managers should inspect what they expect!  The same ethic will work for you too.  So, just demand it.  Put the “snake oil” salesman out of business.  Don’t let a junk dealer sidetrack your breeding program and waste your time.

The blood lines in the House loft, for many years now, result from crossing Bud’s father’s battle tested, working class, old-line Stassarts with the best of the OOA birds Bud has procured for the LCF (Land Channel Futurity) race, and of course, the steady “481” is a perfect example of what Bud chooses. (The Stassarts take me back to a visit to the great reputable breeder, pigeon broker and baker, Charles Heitzman, in the early 1970’s.  Stassarts were rugged individuals, athletic and beautiful; a real man’s pigeon.  It is not surprising that Bud can frequently race these (beautiful) cracker-jacks until seven years of age.

Bashful Seven Time Section Winner

Not hardly!  Experienced old Bud is not bashful.  He’s been around too long to ever be uncomfortable with his own skill level, I soon learned.  “It’s awfully hard to win in the middle,” he informed me, a nugget of truth I couldn’t completely disagree with?  “Face it, the wind usually blows sideways to some degree across the field.  When she rips from the left side, they arc to the right; when she rips from the right, they arc to the left.  Right?  Doesn’t that benefit the guys on the extremes,” he asked?  (Didn’t the great, short flying Dickerson just tell us this was a sport of straight lines over speed?)  “How must the wind blow to help guys, like you, in the center?” I asked.  Bud just shrugged his shoulders and didn’t answer.  “The truth, of course, is when the wind is in their face, or when it blows them straight home,” I said, responding to my own question.  “But, even then our fine feathered short guy, or the determined long flyer, is helped more.”  Vienna, Ohio, the home of the OPC (Original Pigeon Club) is near Youngstown.  Youngstown, of course, is ground zero for the Honorable James Traficant, now paroled; and lies right up the gut on the Federation 400 as the birds fly from southwest to northeast on their way to Cleveland, Akron, Erie or Buffalo. And, from this tough, disadvantaged, centrist position, I learned, the unpretentious, ornery, baiting old Champion, Mr. House, had won his Steel Valley Section seven times!

“This old boy handles himself like a man that knows how to win,” I thought to myself.  A quick check of the Federation stats proved me right.  He’s been consistently aggressive in the 500, being in the 98th percentile for three of the last four years, against an average of 1525 birds.  That’s extremely good performance for a “poor guy in the middle!”  I looked next, to his numbers for the Fed 400.  The shorter race has been a little less kind for the wily, old Bud; the 96th percentile against, an average of 1323 birds.  In fact, over the last eight years, the top one percent in the Federation 500 averages only eleven lofts (9% of the average number of flyers), where-as, the Federation 400 averages 15 lofts (12% of the average number of flyers), and so it appears, anecdotally, that the last one hundred miles really does sort the speedy, girly, futurity type pigeons from the race. 

You Gotta be Nuts to Fly Pigeons!

Bud likes to tell pigeon friends that “you gotta be nuts to fly pigeons,” and so, the old, ardent nut, Mr. House, who retired in 1991 (19 years ago), has trained both young birds and old birds twice a week to any place from Akron, or Canton, Ohio (about a 45 minute toss), that his beautiful and glorious wife, Gerri, would like to date for breakfast.  What’s more, the old stallion, we learn, as he gets “younger,” has become technologically savvy, having recently converted to an electronic timer that worked so well in the 2009 Greater Northeast Ohio Futurity Race (GNEO), that he clocked a 17th position (against 1000 birds) without even realizing the hard flying bird had arrived home.  “You miss out on a lot when you don’t even see your prize pigeon come in,” explained the surprised Champion, Mr. House.  What’s apparent to me from this true Bud story is that our elder champion needs to find a way to bottle and sell as an elixir, that magic, excess Stassart testosterone!

"Bud" House and his daughter, Patty.

Learn and Adapt

If there is any one thing we should take away from our older, erudite colleagues like Mr. Lloyd “Bud” House, it is that we should take nothing for granted relative to the healthy continuance of our beloved sport.  Make every day count.  ENJOY YOUR PIGEON RACING NOW.  Don’t procrastinate, and think you will fix your club problem next year.  George Allen, the great Washington Redskins Head Football Coach, kept a sign on his desk to remind all comers that “The Future is Now!”  (Winning sometimes requires a change in mindset.)  The OPC (Original Pigeon Club) was once a proud member of the strong Steel Valley Combine, and a founding partner and leader in the Ohio-Penn Federation.  In late 2009, the Steel Valley Combine was disbanded.  What was once a thriving, healthy organization of six clubs, with ninety eight pigeon flyers within twenty miles of Youngstown, had been reduced to just one club and twelve flying lofts (with five not flying).  The old “do it my way” or the “all or nothing” mentality regarding organizational issues in clubs and combines is short sighted.  It is hard to imagine that some among us still can’t see that those self-centered approaches are also self-defeating, perhaps hastening your own organization’s final collapse.  Learn to accept compromise.

Learn and adapt.