WHEN I was a kid most cricket enthusiasts were "over the moon" when Australia's opening batsman and captain Bill Lawry managed to score a run!
If Bill was 10 not out at lunch on the first morning of a Test everyone was confident that the Aussies had made a solid start.
Today, we know Old Bill for his cricket commentary.
He's the one who states "it's all happening". In a twist of irony, it certainly wasn't "all happening in a hurry" many years years ago, when Bill was batting.
But what was happening, was that Bill was breeding and racing homing pigeons and has done so ever since.
And he has trained some champions over the years.
How do you train a pigeon, you might ask?
Most days they go for a fly around the neighbourhood and return to their loft before night fall. Unlike other caged birds, pigeons come back to their home.
Pigeons have been known to fly at over 60kph for 15 hours!
When Bart Cummings was training Melbourne Cup winners, he had this theory that his horses had to gallop 10,000km before 3pm on the first Tuesday in November.
They needed the miles in their legs. Pigeons too require the kilometres in their wings.
I remember the first time we took our flock of pigeons for a training run. We took them out to Valla Beach and let them go. There were no mobile phones back then so we had to have a designated release time. My mother Norma Eliza was stationed back at home outside the pigeon loft. As each bird arrived back to the loft the time was recorded.
I couldn't believe it when the blue bar homer made it back to Nambucca Heads in 5 mins 23 secs!
You no longer see flocks of pigeons flying around our townships.
I'll bet you didn't know that former Miss Universe, Jennifer Hawkins, had pigeons as a kid. Well, at least her father did, and she quite often helped clean out the loft.
Toby Klein, a wonderful Anglican priest and interesting high school English teacher and librarian, was the one who was responsible for me becoming a pigeon fancier.
Mr Klein bred Modenas, a breed of pigeon that originated in Modena, Italy. The perfect show bird was shaped like a wine glass. Why he chose Modenas I am not sure, I don't believe his interest in red wine extended past communion on a Sunday morning.
We all know the sound a pigeon makes. That cooing noise which becomes louder when the male has his sights set on that delightful little thing teasing him across the courtyard.
Well strangely, you would think if Mr Klein was going to make some odd noises of his own, they would be like a cooing pigeon. But no, in the library when 100 kids wanted to borrow the same book all at the same time, in order to keep his sanity, he would break out into clucking sounds, like a chook. Thankfully, it wasn't a rooster crowing!
That sound was very much like my mother's white leghorns, which when the back door had been left open, would manage to walk up the hallway on the slippery lino floor and perch themselves on the headboard of her bed.
Building the pigeon loft was like designing a backpacker hostel. Birds were always dropping in for a rest, some staying long term. These were pigeons that had been in a race from say Brisbane to Sydney. Some may have escaped the clutches of a wedge tail eagle and were looking for somewhere to rehabilitate.
Others may have been more suited to shorter events while more intelligent types may have just thought, bugger it, this looks like a nice place to park the caravan for a few days.
It is quite possible that one of Bill Lawry's birds may have sought sanctuary at the Pilot St loft. But who would blame it. I wouldn't be in any great hurry to fly back to Melbourne from the Gold Coast, especially in the middle of winter.
Maybe a real champion called in for a bed for a few nights. In 2019 a Chinese pigeon fancier paid $1.4 million for a champion bird named Armando.
Even one of the Hawkins birds may have stayed over. Come to think of it, I do remember a nice looking red bar caused a stir around the neighbourhood for a few weeks. She must have been a Sagittarius who they claim likes travel and new exciting adventures.
The real magic with pigeons was that they were our first truly mobile phones. Pigeons were used in World Wars I and II to send back surveillance from behind enemy lines.
Simply write the message in code, put it in a specially made canister, tie it around the pigeon's leg and let it fly home to its loft.
Thirty-two pigeons received The Dicken award for valor in the wars and they all had names.
Our pigeons didn't have names - they were a motley crew, half a dozen modenas, a couple of tumblers and white fantails ... some racing homers and a few also rans.
The tumblers were real daredevils, like cropduster pilots and parachutists. They would fly high up into the sky and then suddenly just drop to earth like a stone.
Not only were they indifferent about the ground rushing towards them, they would start to do acrobatics. As their name suggests they would start tumbling over and over, like a kid on a trampoline.
Just when you thought they had mistimed pulling the parachute cord, they would bail out before they crashed into the peach tree in the backyard.
Domesticated pigeons have been around for about 10,000 years.
My best ever New Year's Eve involved a couple of pigeons!
December 31 was fast approaching and thoughts turned of what to do that year. I had a brilliant idea. Why don't we go fishing - with a twist.
We launched the boat and headed across to Warrell Creek.
Our plan was to pitch our tent on the banks of the river just across from South Beach.
From this location we could see and hear the celebrations when the clock struck 12 at the Golf Club and the RSL.
We had it all sorted!
A glass of champagne, a party blower, a freshly caught whiting for breakfast and a night under canvas.
We had brought along a couple of pigeons.
So in the morning we wrote a note, tied it to the pigeon's leg and off it flew, along with its mate.
The message: "Happy New Year Mum and Dad, we had a great night, saw all the fireworks, even caught a fish, Love Peter and Lyn".
The message arrived home safely and I still have the note to this day.