By; Greg McKnight Anaheim, California USA
Started out on Sunday 11-20 with a quick drive down to the Marriott Hotel across the street where I was stationed while in the US Navy 50 years ago at the time just a dirt lot to park your car and walk across to the guard shack. When checking in, the first voice I heard in the adjoining dining room was of C.L. Gage with his baritone voice telling a story to a group of fanciers setting at the table. Mr. Gage is never without a story as I’ve said to our mutual friends and was vaccinated with a phonograph needle and can tell many lively stories. Always a pleasure to see my friend and his lovely wife Patty the life of the party and making arrangements for a wedding on the following Friday for Paul Daniel and his beautiful bride to be Kimberly, who I met some 3 years before at the Las Vegas Pigeon race that Bill Ensign and Hector Vancherri sponsored. Getting back to Paul, who I was told was the last Marlboro Man actor in those classic cigarette ads and who raises, breeds and trains fighting Bulls for the Pro Rodeo industry, along with quarter horses for a nice living. He spoke to me about a new concept for a OLR that I believe will be state of the art and the next generation for OLR’s. I will not give you the details until he has fine tuned the rules and has announced his race to the World.
Sunday night arrived and the basketing of the Triple Crown 100 mile race with a nice room full of fanciers from around the Country along with my old friend Bob Smith of England, always nice to see him who flies in the Up North Combine the largest in the U.K. and past or present President of the Combine who has many stories from his group of fine fanciers. Ron Steinbrenner is the gold standard for One Loft Races and seems to look the same every year I see him at his event. It’s a long night of basketing calling out each bird and going up to handle your candidate that you haven’t seen since you entered it with high expectations, and then realizing it was or wasn’t what you thought it would be, when you sent him in at an early age. My goodness they change as they get older.
The weather was predicted to be raining with gusty winds so the first race cancelled until the next good day, so we had a double header with John Timmerman and his California Classic S.D. race the same day, but shipping was Monday night and a little different with John asking ahead of time if you would be in attendance to help speed up the basketing he would have all your birds remaining in one crate so you would see all of yours at the same time and with this concept your selection of a pool bird if you have many of them, could be ascertained at that moment. Basketing of the 800 birds went smooth and a owner Calcutta began shortly after that with a $50 per bird for each team as a starting point example 3 birds started out at $150- and so on. Each breeder’s team was entered and if the birds did not sell, then they were out. Somewhat different than most Calcutta’s as many have a field at the end where all birds not previously sold will be sold as a lot.
Tuesday was a double race day for the Steinbrenner and Timmerman races and I reserved a seat on the Hotel Van with 12 others with Patty Gage as our driver and C.L. the navigator. We had a lot of winners past and to be in that vehicle. We drove about 20 minutes to the Triple Crown loft and found refreshments waiting for us all, and I went directly to the donut table and a coffee. The wait wasn’t long and a group of about 20 showed up circled briefly and trapped well with some of the usual winners and newbie’s in the group, a great 100 miler with most of the bird’s home in quick time, so we embarked on our next race with only one winner in our van, who doesn’t even have pigeons, by the name of Irma living in Hollywood and most remember her with the late Marty Ladin who introduced her many years ago to us, she played poker and bet the birds like a professional fancier. Gracious lady who has won more money races than most of us veteran fanciers. So were off to the California Classic SD race about 20 minutes away, a beautiful loft and scenery with the rolling hills and horse country. The race also was predicted by many of the arrival time and again a small group dropped with John and company doing a fine job. As we loaded up in the Hotel Van again only one winner boarded by the name of Irma, I tried my best to set next to her so any good luck would rub off, but that wasn’t to be, someone beat me to it, I think it was Bob Smith (Hahaha).
Tuesday night was scheduled for the basketing of the Triple Crown 200 miler so off to the hotel for a quick rest and a night’s basketing. The announcement was made no race for the next day so the birds would be released on Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) with Ron and his daughters preparing 16 turkeys for the crowd. This race we had a few double winners including the perennial winners the Jones boys with Tom Hill partner ship along with Barry Venn capturing the 3 point birds, making them the odds on favorite to win the $100K event, but will see after the last 300 mile race.
Friday Basketing was reserved for the long standing San Diego Holiday Classic race with Steve Miner and Ahmad Morat, loft manager both doing a fine job and the crowd was the largest of the week with a great buffet with three entries of fish, chicken and beef served with all the tasty side dishes. I met so many old and new friends. Bill Ensign and family, I always enjoy seeing his boys grow up and son Blake dueling with me verbally as I told him keep it up and you’ll go back to school and tell your high school friends that some grandpa kicked the crap out of me. Hahaha
My old friends from the Compton Club the Gluck brothers and Charlie Ruhlen the almost 86 year old buddy discussing the old timers from the past. John Stephen a leader of the club and terrific flyer and organizer, new flyer Max, establishing himself as a top drawer fancier in this last young bird series. Juan Sepulveda the man to beat over the past 3 years, Hector and his family (Jalisco Loft) along with his 16 month old son making us old timers laugh with his actions and my wife Carol, falling in love with him as with many. The Latino’s were out in force as you would expect whenever gambling goes on with racing pigeons. Jorge Torres from Ventura with his mother and boys, Enrique Castro and family, past winner of the 100K Triple Crown along with my old friend for 50 years Alex Atristain the current all time money winner at the same race last year. New friends from Mexico whose passion is the highest and competition are keenest with 30,000 birds in the early races in Mexico. If you’re going to compete in Mexico you’ll have to bring you’re A-game for sure. Gringo’s Beware! Hahaha
Bob Carney from the East Coast and the 2017 I.F. Convention host, will be the coordinator for the upcoming race this next year, make sure you support this event, good way to test your birds. Our current Chairman for the A.U. Convention Race Kamal Hindi was in attendance with his son, promoting the event. Joe Nemelka another top competitor in the OLR’s along with Dan & Greg Coury both winners in the races in attendance. Oscar & Linda Devries from Canada with family, the boys from Nebraska, Carter Mayotte and Duane Kugler, my long time friends Rick Barker a promoter of the Pigeon Museum and well known fancy showman along with Tim Brandon a $17K winner at the Cal Classic and one of the best pigeon fanciers I know, who lost his wife Nancy to cancer after a 5 year fight and I know she is now his guarding angel. A new flyer originally from Idaho now in Santa Cruz, California Dave Byer was a pleasant new acquaintance and very likable fellow who I wish all the best and welcome him back in to our great sport. I know so many fanciers please if I don’t mention your name it’s not meant to be a negative to you.
I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon 11-27-16 with the final Triple Crown and Holiday Classic races to be determined tomorrow as I was last reported due to weather conditions, so the final chapter will not be written until then.
Good luck to all and remember playing and losing is the second best thing but playing and winning is the best. If you love it keep playing and one day you’ll sit in the winners circle and tell all how you did it.
Yours in the sport,