Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Homing Pigeon That Made Itself at Home

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Homing Pigeon That Made Itself at Home

Article excerpt

I recently received a note from a friend explaining that the home she and her family had made and lived in for the past 30 years was to be dismantled and removed, all because they had established themselves without the requisite permits. It got me thinking about home and what it signifies - shelter, warmth, one's own space, a pleasantly familiar refuge from the world. But it's also a place that fosters the resolve to venture out, fearlessly, into the world.

I jotted off a response to commiserate but also to encourage the sense of adventure that I knew was intrinsic in this family. Home is wherever we find ourselves, if we will see it that way. I learned this from an experience my husband and I had with a homing pigeon.

The pigeon flew onto our ranch on a Thursday morning. Jerry was feeding the wild birds before we left for work when he noticed it sitting on the shop roof, ruffled and bedraggled. He greeted it with a welcoming nod while throwing hen scratch plainly in view.

My husband was first to arrive home, and he found the pigeon had moved from the shop roof to the back porch of our log cabin. To Jerry's surprise, the pigeon didn't fly or flinch when he walked onto the porch to unlock the door.

To his greater surprise, the pigeon strutted in front of him into the kitchen and flew into the sink, dropping its calling card along the way. (Did our log cabin remind the bird of its coop back home?)

As Jerry caught and caged the bird to feed it and let it rest for flight, he noticed a tag on the pigeon's leg: "August - S.L.O."

We surmised that the pigeon lived in San Luis Obispo, about 110 miles south. We concluded that it must be a homing pigeon on a return trip from some faraway place and was too tired to make the last leg of its journey. No problem. In the past, we had provided a stopover for Canada geese, several of which tried in vain to entice our domestic geese to accompany them on their flight northward. Fortunately, our geese were too well-fed to lift off.

After a full day's rest on Friday and most of Saturday, the homing pigeon looked considerably better. Jerry attached a note to its leg that included our name and phone number, in the hope that the bird would fly home and its caretaker would call to let us know. Late that afternoon, we took the pigeon into our pasture, where Jerry lifted it out of the cage and gently launched it into the sky. The pigeon soared beautifully high. It would be just fine for the flight home, we thought.

But, wait. No! It flew right back to the shop roof. "Drat! Another bird mouth to feed and care for," I thought.

Not that this pigeon wasn't welcome. It's just that it would take some special care because it was tame. It didn't seem to notice the cat stalking it. Neither did it know about the night beasties that mysteriously appeared to dine on our fine-feathered friends. …

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