Author is a retired attorney having practiced for 35 years in Illinois who now lives in Texas and started writing stories about a year and a half ago.
A Pigeon Named Oliver
There once was pigeon named Oliver. He was named that because he became an orphan at a young age and always begged for more food and thus reminded the pigeon keeper of Oliver Twist from the novel of the same name. Poor Oliver hand no parents because his mother had been taken by a hawk and his father abandon him in his nest as a young squeaker, a squeaker being not a fully grown pigeon dependent on his parents for food. His father couldn’t be bothered with single fatherhood since he was already out strutting his stuff looking for a new mate and had quit feeding his babies. One of them starved to death and the other became Oliver.
The keeper of these pigeons, upon discovering the starved baby, took Oliver under his wing so to speak, brought him in his house and started feeding him oatmeal and grits with an eye dropper. But no matter how much he fed him, it was never enough. For poor Oliver always would start flapping his wings and loudly squawking demanding more. So the pigeon keeper would keep on feeding him until eventually he would become full and shut up. It was kind of like when he fed his son, when he was little.
Oliver grew to an adult pigeon in a month right on schedule. Then he was put over with the young bird kit. That is a group of birds his age to be trained to perform. For Oliver was a Birmingham Roller, that is a pigeon that does continual somersaults or rolls, anywhere from three to twenty or more feet in depth, while flying. There were two dangers inherent to being a Birmingham Roller. One the ever present hawk looking for a meal and two spinning out of control and crashing to the ground and killing oneself.
Well Oliver survived both of these hazards and made it to the breeding season next year. He remained tame too and would let the pigeon keeper handle him and not try to flee when he grabbed him like the other birds would do. In fact Oliver relished landing on his keeper’s head and shoulders and whacking his wings at him as if his keeper was a rival cock bird with whom to do battle. This annoyed the pigeon keeper but there was nothing he could do to change this behaviour because Oliver hand been raised by a human and viewed a human as a pigeon rival. So the pigeon keeper kind of playfully flapped his fingers back at Oliver in jest but this only encouraged him to be more aggressive.
Now a new breeding season approached and only the best performing birds were chosen to reproduce and Oliver was one of them. His keeper thus placed him with three other cock birds and four hens in the breeding coop and let the pigeons choose for themselves with whom they would mate, for once pigeon pairs up, they remain so mated to each other for the rest of their lives. Kind of like some humans do, sometimes.
Oliver strutted and blew up his crop, paraded up and down with tail feathers spread before one of the hen birds. But she rejected his advances and chose another for her mate, for pigeons are just like people in that the female of the specie chooses the mate, not the male, though the male may think so. So Oliver repeated the process and was rejected a second and then a third time and thus by the process of elimination only one hen remained available.
Oliver was not her first choice either for a mate for she was not that aggressive in going after a male and the more aggressive hens always get the males they want, just like female humans do. So she was stuck with Oliver and Oliver with her.
But it was spring time and love was in the air and the forces of nature were too much and the two of them eventually got together. So Oliver built the nest and did his duty taking his turn sitting on the eggs and did his duty feeding his two young and did his duty keeping them warm for ten days as pigeons are programmed to do, and did his duty raising the two squeakers to maturity. Now hen pigeons lay two eggs again just before the the squeakers are full grown and the pair repeats the process of raising young over and over again until the pigeon keeper decides he has enough new birds for a kit, a kit being about twenty rollers to be trained to fly and roll together simultaneously as a team. Then he separates the spouses and the breeding season is over.
Now after the second round of eggs hatched, Oliver again did his duty for ten days feeding and keeping the babies warm and then something happened that the pigeon keeper did not know how to explain. There in Oliver’s nest box were his two baby squeakers, dead.
The pigeon keeper’s first instincts were to look for the usual suspects. That is some varmint, a weasel, mink, coon or possum or had gotten into the coop. But that obviously was not the case here for if one of them had gotten in, then there would be dead adult birds all over the place and the survivors, if any, would still be hysterical. But there were no other dead birds here. Then he thought maybe a large rat or a snake got it but he ruled that out because a rat or snake would have eaten the babies. Here the bodies were in intact except that they were covered with blood and had been pecked all over. Then he thought that maybe another bird had flown in Oliver’s nest box and that a fight ensued and while Oliver defended his family and turf, the babies were accidentally killed. But the pigeon keeper observed no other birds had blood on them. Only Oliver had blood on him.
Oliver had killed his own young. It was the only explanation and it went against everything that was natural in the pigeon world for pigeons don’t kill their young. But Oliver hadn’t grown up in the pigeon world. He had been raised by a human. Maybe his over aggressiveness had run amuck and made him psycho the pigeon keeper thought. Maybe his mate was not to his liking and the prospect of being stuck with her forever drove him over the edge. So instead of killing his wife, which would be impossible for one adult pigeon to kill another, he killed his children to end the marriage. In human terms that could be a motive. Humans did crazy stuff like this, but not pigeons. The pigeon keeper had never seen or heard of such a thing like this in all his years of keeping pigeons. So after a while he gave up trying to come up with an answer. But the fact remained that Oliver was guilty, that he was demented, and that he had to go. So the question became what to do with him.
Pigeon keepers usually cull, that is destroy in polite terms, but kill in real terms, birds that are undesirable to breed from. And Oliver was definitely now an undesirable. But this pigeon keeper was an old man and in his youth he had culled many a bird but now with his old age upon him he had become more respectful of the sacredness of all life, and despite knowing that he should ring Oliver’s neck, he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. So he decided on banishment from the kingdom as Oliver’s punishment.
The next day he went into town, ironically to get pigeon feed and other pigeon supplies, and took Oliver with him. He cleaned him up first washing the blood evidence from his feathers. Town was about twenty miles from where he lived so he released Oliver there figuring that Oliver would join up with the local ferals and that would be the end of him.
But alas he was wrong. Two days later he received a phone call from a woman that lived in a small town about five miles from him. She told him that she had one of his pigeons. Her daughters had captured this pigeon that was too exhausted and too weak to fly she said and that she knew a woman who raised pigeons and that woman got on the internet and somehow traced the registered band number on the bird back to him.
The pigeon keeper had her describe the bird best she could to him to confirm it was Oliver. But despite the lack of pigeon terms and pigeon colors in her description, the pigeon keeper knew it had to be Oliver when she told him that the bird appeared to be hurt as there was blood on him. He must have missed some cleaning him up.
So Oliver had flown fifteen miles approximately trying to get home. All pigeons have some homing instinct even if they aren’t homing pigeons and evidently he became too weak and or too hungry or both to make it all the way. Since he had been raised by a human, humans were his saving grace and Oliver had gone to humans for help, that is this woman’s daughters.
The pigeon keeper informed the woman that he didn’t want the bird back, he did not give her the reason why, and suggested that they could keep it if they wanted to or give the pigeon away to someone else.
“Oh thank you,” said the woman. “We’ll keep her. My daughters just love her. They’ve named her Princess.”
And so that’s how a pigeon named Oliver became a pigeon known as Princess and lived happily ever after, and all by herself/himself hopefully.
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