EDITORIAL Archives > Alan's Corner

Why I hate Pigeons!


The three-store-fronted building my parents owned, housed their sporting goods store, a clockmaker, and a taxidermist. Above were four apartments where I learned to do maintenance work, but that’s a story for another time.

The building was located in the 10's block of Westport Road in Kansas City, Missouri. Just east of the building was a Baptist church, replete with a belfry. That belfry was the home of hundreds of pigeons at any one given time. All too many parishioners fed those flying rats, which assured their survival—except for Saturday afternoons!

At the back of our building was a three level, wooden stairway which acted as a rear entrance from the parking area, as well as a fire escape. When my dad rebuild the stairway, he included a small ladder which allowed access to the roof.

The roof was slightly sloped to the rear to allow the rain water run off into the gutters. And, there was a short parapet around the roof, which provided a blind of sorts so people on the street couldn’t see if anyone was atop the building. The only way to tell, was to climb the stairs to the belfry. No one liked to do that, because there was always a foot of guano on the floorboards under the bells!

On Saturday morning, my choirs included retying tennis rackets, for which I got $1,75 each. On a good day, I could do four, and perhaps six. Considering it was 1954, that was really good money! There is more to this story, and I’ll save that for another time too. But let’s get to the grist—not gist mind you—of the story.

Ask yourself this; What do pigeons eat? The answer is grain, and if they can get it, corn. So, where do city-nesting pigeons get corn? Believe it or not, from the trolley tracks. Oh, but those trolley tracks were also shared by the Missouri Pacific railway. And guess what they hauled? You guessed it, grain from the corn belt of the USA! Add in the parishioner’s share, and it’s no wonder why those pigeons were overweight!

One thing to keep in mind; Pigeons eat, and pigeons…..! And when their aim is good, you get splattered! Fact is, that’s happened to me, more than once! The result? I hate pigeons!

About 1953 or so, my dad took in trade a Benjamin 312, if I remember the model correctly, and I ended up with that airgun. It had a peep sight, and out to about 25 yards, it was very accurate. And it didn’t take me long to put that Benjamin to good use!

I can’t tell you how much joy I experienced, paying back those pigeons for their transgressions! All it took was about 5 pumps, cocking the hammer, inserting a Crosman SuperPell, closing the bolt, and pulling the trigger! To this day, I still wonder about a few of the details.

I remember the red and black tins of Crosman SuperPells having a funny-looking, sliding lid, but I don’t remember what they weighed. I do remember my dad asking me to pay for those pellets, until he saw what I was using them for. Then he ask me if I needed more!

Looking back, no doubt the biggest question in my mind then, and now, is what those Baptists parishioners thought about, after seeing all of those dead pigeons every Sunday morning?

Armageddon, indeed!

Had me a bit stumped with 'choirs' in the context of there being a church involved... but finally got it - 'chores' of course. Though of course it's possible you sang while you strung tennis racquets. Nice reminiscing Alan, very cool vibe. Man, I would have loved having a 'permission' such as that for pesting when I was a kid and a crack shot with my break-barrel .22" Czechoslovakian spring piston rifle. I did manage to nail a pigeon once, in the rafters of a fruit warehouse near where we lived when I was 10. Had it roasted as my school lunch the next day, and boy was I a proud hunter. Roasted pigeon's a pretty fine feast for a kid in grade 5. If it had occurred to me to ask, I might well have got enthusiastic permission from the warehouse manager to control pigeons in that open-sided building. Fruit being shipped off to market is better clean than pooped upon, and then there's the beak holes...

These days I settle for the odd rat or grey squirrel. 10 rats so far this year (seems the massive cull of 2 years ago, 76 in 2016, helped a whole lot with breeding stock), and 39 greys (down from 53 when I started in 2015). Pest critters are both a good challenge for a shooter and an honest duty to maintain. These sorts of introduced species which wreak havoc upon local natural balances - both squirrels and rats consuming huge numbers of songbird eggs and hatchlings. I saw a squirrel eat 3 chickadee babies a few weeks old like he was grabbing a quick snack, in and out of the nest in under a minute, both parent birds frantically chirping and flying at him while he ignored them. Got that guy a couple of hours later. Too late for the chickadee family, but perhaps the parents appreciated the gesture a little, as he fell just under the tree where they nest.

Some day I'd love to live near some farms so I can seek pest management permission. That and a bit of metal detecting would make for a fine retirement. If I ever retire that is. More likely I'll just keep fixing up and making instruments until I croak.

Good catch!!

Actually, that was a Freudian slip! Worse, I didn't catch it! But it makes sense in the overall context, so I won't change it!

Great story Alan.

I’m chewing on printing up a batch of business cards I can hand out to farmers / ranchers around here to offer my services of shooting rat, ground squirrels and other pests. So much private open land near me loaded with pigeons, ground squirrels and rats. I can smell em a mile away.


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