The art of pigeon racing: one man's love of an unusual sport

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Dwight Morgan, a chef by trade, is living out his dream of owning a farm.

"When you come through those gates," said Dwight, "it's like a part of paradise."

He’s got sheep, cows, goats, horses, but his most prized possession is pigeons, dozens of them. Not the kind you normally see, but homing pigeons.

“It’s like therapy for me,” said Dwight. “Many times, when things are not going right, and you go into the loft and they coo... the sound it's like a soothing sound they make.”

His favorite pastime with the pigeons is racing them.

“When I first heard of it the first time,” said Dwight, “What's that? Where's the finish line? Where do you start? Who wins?"

It does take some explaining. The competing birds are driven from their lofts to a start point, hundreds of mile away. They are released all together and race back to their own home. The birds are banded so the exact distance and time each bird touches down are registered on a computer. It then calculates the individual speed and determines the winner.

“So it’s not what you say, it’s what the computer says, and so that's the fun part,” said Dwight.

With racing season just around the corner, Dwight’s birds are in serious training. Every day, Dwight flies them, three or four hours a session, building up speed and endurance, and practice finding home.

“The ability is already there,” said Dwight. “But we’ve got to push them to get better. This is what makes them so intriguing, nobody can figure out really, scientifically, what makes them come home.”

Dwight, now president of a local pigeon club, has been breeding and racing the birds for about twenty years. While he is fascinated by his feathered friends, Dwight admits that pigeons have a bit of a PR problem.

“The stigma is they’re dirty,” said Dwight. “They're always a nuisance, they're in the city, they poop on everything.”

But homing pigeon by homing pigeon, Dwight hopes people will come to appreciate their beauty, grace and brain power.

“They’re very intelligent,” said Dwight. “They’re very smart, because if a bird can remember home 600 miles, 700 miles from home, you tell me, humans we need GPS to find around the block, and we go places over and over before we finally get it right.”

For Dwight and his fellow pigeon fanciers, he says they're the ones getting it right.

“You know it’s just until you get into it, then you realize it’s fun. A lot of fun! I love that about the sport, bringing people together. You know we have differences like family feud, we have arguments and stuff, but the beautiful thing is that at the end of the day, it's all about the pigeon.”

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