I remember once he said to me, “if you get hooked on birds and it gets in your blood, should you ever leave the hobby, you’ll always return.” How true that is, I think that all of your readers will agree. When we first moved to Long Island, my dad worked 3 jobs to support our family. The birds took a back seat until one day a blue bared racing homer came down in our backyard; exhausted, hungry and thirsty. My father nursed him back to good health. The bird stayed and in a few weeks she brought back a mate, a big grizzle homer. He built a box for both of them and a year later built a coop to house tipplers.
Back then, I don’t remember lovatts or very long flying tipplers. My dad had developed a family of yellow checker tipplers that would fly 3 to 4 hours. He believed a tippler, although not the long distance homering bird, should still be smart for 20 to 30 miles. Pratti birds were known in the Long Island area. He use to say, “if I get a few drops out of my young ones and someone in the area catches him, they can eat em”. He used to toss his old birds 30 miles or so and whatever came back he would breed out of. Continuing to do this, year after year, he developed the smartest tipplers I have ever seen. When he was very sick, I went to his house and at his request I had the difficult task of gathering his birds that he could no longer take care of. He looked at me and said, “you’ve got good birds here, take care of them!” He was so brave, even in dying he continued teaching me. So his strain of birds I keep alive by breeding more yellow checkers. Although there are not many flyers in my area I toss my birds 15 miles or so, 165 birds and they come in like a rocket! O’h how I wish my father could stand next to me and watch as they swing in the whole way. I can hear him saying, they’re flying tight, they really know each other. When they go up in the pin, real high, I think- Dad this is for you, they’re reaching the heavens.
My mom tried her best to beat my father’s cancer by nursing and loving him til the very end. She met Dad when she was 13 years old, he was 15 years old and flying birds on the roof above while my Mom sunbathed on the roof below next door. She loved what my Dad loved, so in time she also loved the birds that my father cared for.
When he passed 6 months ago, my mom said, “it’s hard to look out at the coop and not see your dad.” I made a decision to take down the coop and restore it in my yard. I keep my budapest in there and I feel my dad close to me when I look out at his loft.
I am grateful that I was able to tell him before he died, thank you for giving me this beautiful hobby. I really don’t know what I would do with my spare time without the birds. I love flying a big stock and living on the water, they look so great flying over the bay. When they land, there is a familiar whistle, my dad’s original tune that those yellow checkers hear and within minutes after landing directly on the coop the 165 birds go into the coop within minutes just like my dad’s use to do. People would say Pete, your birds are like soldiers, they march to your beat! While they are still soring the heavens in marching the beat but it is now me that leads the orchestra, the kite without a string, I love you dad till I see you again, I’ll keep em flying !