BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – For the rest of us, they can be nuisances – plagues on our streets, parks, and public statues. But they’re a fortune for a Bakersfield club. At least the well-behaved ones.
We’re talking about pigeons – those who run long distances.
And they were on display on Sunday – literally on display.
It was then that members of the Bakersfield Pigeon Racing Club gathered for a big event – the auction of an important and valuable stable of racing pigeons.
Long-time member Ted Little had passed away and brought his birds to the club – dozens of birds worth hundreds of dollars each. The club auctioned the birds on Sunday, with the proceeds being used to renovate the clubhouse and other expenses.
“I keep wondering how people have passions and find each other,” said Mike McCoy, director of the Kern County Museum, Little’s son-in-law. “Whether it’s people who collect a certain type of car, women who collect buttons, and men who run pigeons, they find each other. You find community. For me it’s a wonderful thing. “
Club members range in ages from their teens to Floyd Jackson, whose wife recently asked his doctor if Jackson’s 97-year-old body could cope with the excitement and stress of monitoring his pigeons at races up to 500 miles
“My doctor says, ‘What is he doing, are you just sitting around all day?'” Jackson said. “She says, ‘No, he has pigeons and he does gardening.’ He says, ‘Tell him to keep doing it.’ “
The bidding was brisk at times, but you couldn’t tell from the behavior of the birds. They were mostly calm – maybe they saved themselves for the next race.
They’re running against the clock, not so much against each other if you imagine a group of birds fluttering down the track neck to neck in anger. That doesn’t mean there is no drama or danger – hawks are a common threat to a carrier pigeon’s welfare.
Pigeon owners are willing to take this risk – often thousands of dollars in prize money is at stake. The pigeons themselves work for birdseed and have little say in the matter.
There’s a lot of money in thoroughbred racing. Pigeon racing? Not nearly as expensive. But not cheap either.
Sounds exciting to you? Bakersfield Racing Pigeon Club members can tell you more. Come visit us – the clubhouse on Norris Road is 100 yards east of the Knotty Pine Cafe.