Ah, for the delightful month of June, we honor a fighter for civil rights and a champion of one of the most maligned birds, the pigeon. I was honored to have a chance to chat with a real hero of the underdog, or underbird in this case. Frank flew in and met me at Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia for this interview. We lunched al fresco on popcorn and kibble and spoke of the bad rap pigeons have had over the years. Frank is trying to change all that.
Louise: Welcome to our fair city, Frank. I hope your flight was comfortable. Did you have any trouble finding me?
Frank: Not at all. My pigeon friends often speak of Rittenhouse Square as a friendly and hospitable place to hang out. There have been very few attacks on my peeps here. I'm happy to say Philadelphia is a sanctuary city for my fellow pigeons.
L: I'm glad you feel that way. How did you get started as a champion of the pigeon?
F: Of course, I was born Pigeon...and I hasten to say, I remain Pigeon through and through. Many people have the wrong idea about us. They think we are vermin. They think we are dirty and spread disease. They hear this garbage from unenlightened sources and repeat it as if it were truth. This is nonsense. They do not know about our intellect, our amazing capabilities nor our glorious history.
L: Can you explain further?
F: We have a proud history in the military and in communication. In 2500 BC, pigeons carried messages in Mesopotamia. We were praised in an ancient Greek poem "Ode to a Carrier Pigeon" (a big hit in those days). In the first Olympic games, athletes brought pigeons with them in order to deliver news of a medal won to the folks back home. Even Hannibal (53BC) was thought to have brought pigeons to transport messages during his battles. We aided communication in the Siege of Paris (1879-71). In WWI, 100,000+ birds lost their lives in the cause of military service. Thirty-two pigeons were awarded the Dicklin Medal for animals that were brave beyond the pale in wartime. I can go on and on.
L: So what happened? When did the negative spin start?
F: It's dispiriting. Communication advanced with the post office, the telegraph, the telephone, television, radio, etc. We didn't get the jobs. We were out flying about, landing on buildings and statues with nothing to do and no public lavatories. City planning did not recognize our needs. We don't have hands or arms, so we couldn't build our own facilities. Our natural biological functions were the blame for the nasty press. Pigeon fanciers and enlightened city planners know we aren't the demons we have been called by unthinking individuals. A little guano won't hurt. A lot can be great fertilizer.
L: I'm glad you are getting the word out. I was unaware of your rich history. Thank you for sharing. You are indeed a proud pigeon. I wish you well and hope you have a safe return home.
F: Thanks. It was good to have a chance to set the story straight. Oh, and here's a message I carried on my left leg to give you. I almost forgot.
L: Hmmm, it says "Don't forget your appointment for your Parvo shot next Tuesday at 11."
F: I still have a few clients left. Dr. Throckmorton has been using my services for a long time. He's a very loyal customer.