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Guys who are different (07-03-23)


Guys who are different. 

There are visits that you remember for a long time. Because they were so special or, because that also happened, educational.

What always surprises me is how we used to find it all without GPS, in the middle of a metropolis, or in the middle of nowhere. In my younger years I once visited a long distance champion in the heart of Rotterdam. Don't ask me how I got there, I would hardly find it today with GPS.



One of the most talked-about fanciers of the last century was Gust Christiaens. He lived in Humbeek, not far from Brussels. Although he was different from others, he was a good person and as a fancier he was a genius and far ahead of his time.
Because no matter how different his views sometimes were, it was hard to beat him.
A result of my writings about him was clients for his birds.
If someone then left his place with his purchased pigeons, he would sometimes be told 'All rubbish you bought.”
A strange guy indeed. "The sale" (money) didn't interest him, so he claimed, but I was still allowed to select a youngster after he had been completely sold out by my writings.


I chose a splash I remember. It gave me a strange feeling because it was clear that he did not like it. Perhaps a good sign, because if you are allowed to choose, it is sometimes the art to feel which the donor would rather keep for himself. After I had chosen Gust seemed a bit affected, quieter too.
I turned out to be right, because Gust: 'You can have that pigeon, a promise is a promise and I am a man of my word, but I thought the Dutch were smarter. You picked the biggest piece of junk I have here. But since we're friends, I want to make it right. You can still take another one.'
I was perplexed. What was that? Trade now?
Was I dealing with a childish person here or with a clever one who wanted to fool me? I stuck with the chosen pigeon, clearly against his will, but that did not end my suffering. He called early the next morning. He had slept badly that night because he was “going to lose a friend.”
That 'friend' was me and he was going ‘to lose me’ because I was stuck with a piece of junk. Besides, it was not his bird. He had got it from Maurice Voets, he said.
Of course he couldn't know that I knew Maurice well. A phone call showed that the pigeon was indeed one of Voets and out of his best. Maurice didn't have to say that. . If someone like Christiaens imported something, it was of course of the best. 'Bontje Voets' would give me supers. Take also Ulrich, for arguments’ sake. The birds he got from me made him one of the best racers in Holland in those days: Voets strain

On a Saturday morning I had to be in Brussels, decided to take some babies with me for a toss and to pay Limbourg and Gust a short visit.
When I arrived he was peddling with a basket of pigeons.
“To vaccinate them,” he lied.
I didn't believe any of it. It was in the late summer, not the time to vaccinate pigeons.
‘Well, you are not everyone and I will tell you something,’ says Gust. "If you basket in the evening, the pigeons will be happy the next morning to stretch their wings." Then they are in no hurry to go home. For speed races, especially cocks must be put in the basket in the morning on the day of basketing. Then they have skipped their breeding turn and that increases the urge to go home. That is also the reason that hens perform better when raced natural. They have also skipped a breeding turn at night! You could achieve the same with cocks by putting them in the basket in the morning.’ Thus 'the wizard of Humbeek.'
The following Monday I bought a newspaper. I always did on Mondays. In those days a full page was dedicated on pigeon results. Now I bought one also out of curiosity about Gust. He had won 1st and 2nd.


I always laugh when people say they have so many friends. I had/have few but real ones. One of them was Klak.
He was from an older generation but we got along very well.
He came here to watch Orleans for a few years,
I clocked his birds for 3 years.
He had the reputation of being an excellent pigeon man and that was a face indeed.  When pigeons came from the race he called, even before they had landed, in which box I had to grab them. (We still clocked manual). While most of them were blue.
I also got pigeons from him, but they already lacked quality at the end of the 90s and he knew that himself.
What stayed with me was how he had drilled his pigeons. When it was time for the  pigeons to train, he entered the loft with a stick, tapped it three times on the floor and whizzed, everything flew off the nests and out. Never understood how he got it done.


Auction of Klak birds after his death

Roger Engelen is another such person. An excellent craftsman with good pigeons. With him you see ‘garden lofts’ low to the ground and a loft above a garage. The hens are in the garden loft, they are released from there to train and they also come in there. That means during the week. Everything is different on racing days. Then the birds enter the loft ‘upstairs’. What applies to Klak also applies to him: How does he get it done?


    Roger Engelen with his grandson who also was pigeon crazy.