BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — To the rest of us, they can be nuisances — plagues upon our streets, parks and public statuary. But to one Bakersfield club, they’re assets. At least the well-bred ones.
We’re talking about pigeons — the ones that race long distances.
And they were on display Sunday — literally displayed.
That’s when members of the Bakersfield Pigeon Racing Club gathered for a big event — the auctioning of a substantial and prized stable of racing pigeons.
Ted Little, a longtime member, had passed away and willed his birds to the club — dozens of birds worth hundreds of dollars each. The club auctioned off the birds Sunday, with proceeds going toward clubhouse renovations and other expenses.
“It just always amazes me how people have passions and they’ll find each other,” said Kern County Museum Director Mike McCoy, Little’s son-in-law. “Whether it’s people that collect a certain kind of automobile, women that collect buttons, and these are guys that race pigeons, they find each other. They find community. To me it’s a wonderful thing.”
The club’s members range in age from their teens to Floyd Jackson, whose wife recently asked his physician if Jackson’s 97-year-old body was up to the excitement and stress of monitoring his pigeons on races of up to 500 miles
“My doctor says, ‘What does he do, just sit around all day?’” Jackson said. “She says, ‘No, he’s got pigeons and he does yard work.’ He says, ‘Tell him to keep doing it.’”
The bidding was lively at times but you couldn’t tell based on the demeanor of the birds. They were mostly placid — perhaps saving themselves for the next race.
They race against the clock, not so much against each other, in case you’re visualizing a cluster of birds flapping furiously neck and neck down the stretch. That doesn’t mean there’s no element of drama or danger — hawks are a frequent threat to the well being of a racing pigeon.
Pigeon owners are willing to take that risk — thousands of dollars in prize money is often at stake. The pigeons themselves work for bird seed 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.
Sound exciting to you? Members of the Bakersfield Racing Pigeon Club can tell you more. Drop in — their Norris Road clubhouse is 100 yards east of the Knotty Pine Cafe.