A hobby takes flight
I didn't know Dale Herion a month ago. I'd met him one time after my buddy Bill Simmons rounded up three guys I hadn't met to join us on our fishing trip this summer to Canada. We'd gotten acquainted when we met for supper at the Milwaukee Grill a few months ago.
Last month, Dale rode up in my vehicle to Mauston, and then we transferred our gear to my friend Brian McGraw's bigger SUV for the journey to Canada. Brian lives in Muscoda, and he and Dale had never met. Dale, however, kept us entertained on the long drive with stories about his hobbies, particularly his passion for pigeon racing.
He told us how these hobbyists can spend hundreds of dollars on a homing racer with the right genetics—just like a horse racer will spend big dollars for the right thoroughbred. Dale told us how he raises and houses up to 200 pigeons each year and the ins and outs of breeding, training and feeding winning racers.
I asked Dale if he'd be interested in having The Gazette do a feature story on his pigeon racers, and he was game for the idea. That's how reporter Neil Johnson's story and photographer Dan Lassiter's pictures wound up in today's Gazette.
I marveled at how Dale could train these amazing birds to fly hundreds of miles back to their loft houses at his place. How can they possibly know to fly the right way? I wondered. He told us how little computerized gadgets attached to a pigeon's leg and each racer's loft give exact times when the bird gets home to help determine the race winner. Mere seconds can separate winners and losers of a race covering hundreds of miles.
Dale is president of the Rock River Racers, a Janesville pigeon club. Brian and I laughed from time to time when we were sitting in a boat on a massive lake in Ontario and Dale's cellphone would ring. Often, it was a club member with a question. “I'm in Canada,” were usually the first words out of Dale's mouth. It seemed odd to be in such a remote location but still in touch through today's technology.
The story in today's Gazette tells how one time a hawk flew into one of his pigeon lofts and killed a few birds. That happened while we were in Canada. Dale's wife called him with the bad news.
Today's story also says Dale's birds didn't win a 200-mile race from Libertyville, Iowa, that Neil described. Dale blamed a lapse in training these 4-month-old birds.
“I took a week's vacation and didn't fly them that week. I shouldn't have. Maybe they'd have done better,” Dale told Neil.
Sounds like Dale won't be joining Brian and me in Canada again as long as he has a burning desire to race his pigeons competitively.