My Dad has a large heart when it comes to his livestock. He was always out in the middle of blizzards making sure his cattle were well fed and bedded down with fresh straw. If a calf had a case of diarrhea, we would tackle it to the ground and plunge some sulfa drugs down its throat. When an animal was standing around listless, we would chase it into the holding chute and give it a shot of antibiotic. Yes, Dad took very good care of his livestock!
There were a few creatures, however, that caused Dad’s tolerance to wane, and at the top of that list were pigeons! “Filthy Creatures and “Flying Rats” were two of the many nicknames he gave to these off white birds, which were the most hated of all his enemies.
Dad despised these birds for a number of reasons. They carried disease. They didn’t live in trees, but instead made their nests inside of farm buildings. While inside these buildings they defecated everywhere including on machines and equipment. Their feces are acidic and will eat paint right down to the metal. They never abandon a building as their permanent nesting site once they establish residence inside one. They communicate with their friends, telling them about their prime nesting site, and these friends follow them home to make residence inside your building too. They are crafty: They send out advance scouts which check out farmsteads looking for ideal buildings.
It turns out that our barn was an ideal building for pigeons, and Dad fought for territorial rights with them all of the years he lived on the farm. Our barn had a hay mow, which was a huge, cavernous, upper level, which once was used for hay storage, several generations ago. The hay mow had a steel rail running the length of the top, which originally was used for moving hay, but instead made an excellent perch for pigeons to sit on. The huge upper door had sagged to perhaps eight inches from the roof, giving the agile critters ample space to sneak inside.
Dad was constantly at war with the pigeons, and his tactics consisted of several different strategies. If one lone bird showed up in the yard, it was probably a scout, so Dad would grab the shotgun and run around shooting at it until it either was killed, or left the yard. He didn’t want it going back to the group with a positive report about his yard! If a pair eventually made a home inside the barn, he would use his .22 rifle, chambered with “bird shot,” and shoot at them every time he suspected they were inside. He took care of the majority of the pigeons this way, dropping them to the floor like flies, much to the delight of our many cats! On occasion, some of the “flying rodents” became overly cautious and left the barn every time someone started climbing up into the hay mow. Dad would sometimes use stealth in order to get a shot off before they fled the premises. He would sometimes try after dark, with me holding the flashlight on the white targets while he aimed and shot. I remember once going out at night in the middle of a severe blizzard to shoot pigeons. Dad told me that even if they escaped his rifle in the barn, they wouldn’t escape the storm outside. He explained how the birds have tiny little breathing holes that easily freeze over in snow storms. It must have worked, because there were no new pigeons around for several months after that night.
As Dad aged, and couldn’t climb up in the hay mow as easily with his bad knees, he became more content to stand outside with his shotgun, picking them off in midair as someone climbed into the hay mow to scare them outside. Mom was often enlisted for this duty but Dad would grab anyone available when he heard a “coo coo” sound coming from the barn. The last time I did the climbing, I took the .22 rifle, and actually shot one pigeon inside the barn while Dad got the other outside. We were a lethal team!
I was more than a little concerned when Dad retired a few years back and moved to the city. Minot, like all urban centers, is home to thousands of pigeons, and I knew Dad would be driving daily through underpasses lined thick with his hated enemies. I was hoping I wouldn’t be hearing of a man arrested in Minot for discharging a shotgun within city limits. Dad has done well so far in controlling his instincts around his natural enemy. Maybe he’s finally at peace and has adopted a “live and let live” philosophy in regard to pigeons. Dad can finally rest, knowing that keeping the barn pigeon free is no longer his calling. I have a feeling all the pigeons are resting a little easier too!