2022 already? Like every year around this time, it will take some time getting used to it. Yes, how often do we tell each other that 'it' all goes so fast.
It has been 1997 since my first article appeared in pigeon magazine De Duif. A calculation is easily made: 25 Years: So Silver. I had already started writing shortly after my first and last marriage.
Why I chose to write about pigeons and pigeon sport? That was for several reasons.
-Thus I was able to get in touch with top players and learn from them.
Even then, as a layman, I saw fellow sportsmen making such foolish, even revengeful mistakes that it demanded to be corrected.
-Additionally, I obviously have a natural need to get people to share in what little knowledge I have.
-I was at the time (!) very interested in the lofts of the champions. Because a good loft was what I wanted myself. With good pigeons on it, of course, and because I didn't have the means, I got those good ones through the writing. But learning fascinated me the most. Then, and to this day.
The men who dominated pigeon sport at that time included Jan Zoontjens, Jos Soontjens, Marcelis, Hofkens, de Janssens. I have visited them all, but my confusion about 'what a good loft looks like' only increased. The lofts of Jan Zoontjens, Marcelis were completely closed. Not a fly could, as it were, fly in or out.
In the lofts of Hofkens and de Janssens, on the other hand, your hair stood on end in windy weather. You looked out through the tiles and in the winter it was clearing snow.
A pigeon loft must be good, clear thing, but that can be done in different ways. Obviously, my ignorance is of no use to you as a reader. However, a guideline:
Do you have doubts about your loft or are you looking for improvement? Go trial and error. Empirical with a 'learned' word. Make your lofts different. For instance:
-One loft well lit, the other not.
-One loft more closed, the other loft more open.
-One loft very clean, in the other a floor covering.
And then watch how the pigeons react. They will tell you which is the best loft. I mean their condition of course.
KLAK AND LEYTENS
In the race of ALL races, National Orleans youngsters, I was said to be the best of the whole country at the time.
So much so that Klak came to watch the arrivals a few times. When I had some at home, he called fanciers from Reusel (same distance) and it was a shock, for Klak, me and the men in Reusel. There were hardly any pigeons there. Klak didn't understand. “And those men clean day and night,” he kept saying.
At the time, I also got a visit from the late Cor Leytens, who became a good friend. When it got dark he asked if he could stick his nose in the loft. No problem of course. He opened the door and closed it almost immediately. "I've seen enough," said Cor. ‘Good lofts, you just feel it’. From that day on, I no longer laugh at people who say they can smell form.
So I don't dare to talk about lofts anymore. Have seen too much that is completely contrary to existing views. The story of the Zandhoven champion Eddy Janssen is well known. Beautiful new lofts were built, but they had to be demolished because of pigeons that did not perform in them.
Repeatedly you can read about someone who started playing better after opening windows. But also about others who saw the form improve enormously after they closed the lofts.
In this respect it should be mentioned that it is becoming more and more fashionable to make the lofts more open. Especially those of youngsters. Dirk Donckers has insulated them with chicken wire. It is certain that a pigeon should feel 'at home'. Would like to be in that loft. That has nothing to do with luxury, neither cleaning.
The pigeon lofts were finished earlier in the last century than my current home. To save money I helped the contractor with the construction, so busy enough. The youngsters had to come to the loft that was already there. Always exciting a new loft. There were two departments for youngsters and I decided, due to limited time, not to clean one. “Then just underperform for a year. My time would come.” I left the connecting door ajar.
But surprise: When I briefly entered the lofts in the evening to lock them, I made a remarkable discovery. All the youngsters were in the loft that was not cleaned.
I had seen enough with that. That was the best loft. From then on, no young bird loft would be cleaned. However, they were dry lofts with usually a ground cover such as corn cobs. So they weren't filthy, although they raised many an eyebrow.
That year, for example, the Japanese came to make a film about Orleans. I had sent them to the organizers in Tilburg. Filming was done there and the ‘pigeon trucks’ were also followed to Orleans, where at the time up to 200,000 young pigeons were released at the same time. I couldn't join, after all, I played myself.
Those Japanese were smart gentlemen in smart suits. My wife repeatedly: 'Shame on those lofts, clean them up before those people get here.' And so it happened. About a week before basketing. The pigeons reacted almost immediately, but differently than expected. You saw the condition decline. The result was still good, but I was used to better. If you held your hand against the cold floorboards, a lot became clear.
Quite a few fanciers attach great importance to feeding. 'If you can feed, you can also play with pigeons', you sometimes read.
Is that true? Ask ten champions how they feed and you may get ten different answers. Gaston van de Wouwer only visited his pigeons in the evening. So they were only fed in the evening. De Bruijn also feeds his young only once a day.
Fond icon Jan Theelen: 'I have never understood what people mean by staging. Nor is that 'getting it ready' for a national flight.
Andre Roodhooft: I know nothing about feeding.
Joost de Smeyter, on the other hand, attaches great importance to feeding. His approach is almost scientific. And in the extreme long distance he is International top.
What you do see more and more, perhaps following Klak, is that fanciers give the same mixture all year round. That doesn't seem wrong, especially for babies. Because switching over from 'purification' to 'heavy energy-rich food' every week within a few days can only put a strain on the digestive system. Something no one wants.
In the eighties I often visited Janssen Bros.