All roller fanciers who can read and have the good sense to subscribe to the APJ and read Bill Pensom articles on rollers and the condition the fancy is in today. Before every roller fancier dashes off into print and makes a fool of himself, let me bring a few facts to light that may give some of you some extra food for thought. First of all, it is easy to condemn what you do not know or have not had the good fortune to see. Bill Pensom to me was a near myth that I was sure was surrounded by more foolish tales of false ability than any one in the history of pigeon culture.
It was a stunning experience to fine out the truth. Over the years, things that Pensom has said for the sole purpose of enlightening the fancy have been misinterpreted, misunderstood, misquoted, and used against him. Those he help educate in the roller game and who became prominent, became jealous and turned against him. For the benefit of the many roller breeders who have heard tales of Bills abilities and doubt they exist, let me cite a few examples and you judge them and me, the teller of this story.
First, the thing that has got Bill into more hot water than anything else is his insistence that you judge pigeons value on the ground. This is so easy for him that he is beside himself to understand why everyone cant do it. Oh, so you say he cant do it either. Listen friend, you are in for a shock! He can do it so fast and so easy that it leaves you blinking you eyes.
I was in Los Angeles a few years ago for the Rose Bowl game. I had a crate of pigeons to send to the National along with me. I was staying with my friend Dick Stephens, and the local roller clan was in Dicks backyard. In the group of my birds was a short, fine bodied, perfectly feathered, young badge cock. All who viewed my birds were admiring this bird as one of the better ones they had seen. Bill was late arriving and as he did, I was holding this young cock in hand. As Bill walked up, I asked: What do you think of this, Bill? He looked at it, shoved it back with: Blimey, Bruce, its rubbish. Surely you breed better than that.Then, feeling embarrassed, he patted me on the neck and said, Lets have a look at the rest.
Well Pensom, at a glance, could tell what others couldnt by studying it, that the bird was a real roll-down as I only, already knew. Pensom was in the Northwest this past year and went through many lofts, picking out the good spinners while they were perched. I've been all over the country and watched any number of fanciers try this and they do no better than a good educated guess.
Bill, however went into my loft and lined up my stock. He put birds in order of there worth. He filled the hen cages first and lined them up into the exact order of their spinning ability. The many fanciers present were like me, mouth agape and awed. But he had one miss I thought. She was a checkered self he had in the twelfth hole. She was fast, light, and frequent as they get and still fly. I question this pick.
Bill took the bird and showed us the lack of muscle on the back and said: While this is a good spinner and still could be used for stock, she is lacking in muscle and, if flown long enough, will give out and kill herself coming in. Also, she will be a little slow getting back to the kit for competition. That about bowled everyone over as they all knew the bird and knew I flew her for all visitors in my #1 kit, but had pulled her on competition day. (A footnote to this story is tragic, as she did later kill herself at the age of 2 years, three months coming into land.)
Bill then lined up my cocks and again in the order that several years of flying had shown me to be their true valve. Another time, while visiting in Los Angeles I was at Ralph Hiltons watching his young birds go. Pensom, Hilton, and I were going to dinner. As I was already dressed, Ralph left me alone to watch the kit. I had Binoculars and was impressed with five birds that were exceptional.
There was a sixth bird that rolled as often as the five, but not as tight. They were of different markings so I had it in mind to handle the five good ones and the lesser roller when they came in. Pensom hadnt seen Ralphs birds go yet that year and was going to try to make it for the fly. He was delayed and arrived just after they had landed.
The birds were extremely hungry and started to trap in, but our greeting each other spooked a few of them up. The sixth bird I described, as frequent but not tight enough, was among them. Ralph who was coming out the back door as Bill was watching the birds, caught a glimpse of the action and was asking how they look, only to hear Pensom say rubbish, with his very English accent.
Then Pensom dove into the loft, good suit and all, and started catching pigeons and stacking them under his arm like ears of corn. He emerged with five (yes, all five) of the birds I had picked out of that young kit by 45 minutes of very close observation. You can say what you like my friends, but to me this is a pigeon man.
Now to work myself back to where I started with Bills statement that you must pick them on the ground. I asked him about this during one of our talks. What can you see in a bird on the ground that you can’t see in the air nothing! He answered, except that occasionally a fairly good spinner will be a little lacking and you can choose a better type.
Now I didn’t ask him if you mated them in the air, only picking birds for the stock loft. It is obvious they must be balance together in the coop. Really the reason this gets Bill in trouble with the uneducated is very simple. One group goes off mating birds in the coop for show type, not knowing what a good spinner looks like in the coop. Another group says Bill is nuts no one can tell a spinner on the ground. There is also the smaller minority that claim they can pick a spinner in the hand.
Usually a few tests show you that they are frauds. No doubt there are others who can do it, but my experience shows they are few in number. To me it is pretty obvious, Pensom is criticized and condemned by a noisy few that do not know of the great ability with the pigeons the man really has. Those who go to paper and pen to throw rocks will look foolish to many of us who know the real truth about Pensom, who is no doubt the worlds leading pigeon fancier.
Twenty five years ago there were Birmingham Rollers in America that could spin, no question about that. There were lofts of birds in this country for many, many years that contained excellent birds. The fact remains unmistakable, however that Bill Pensoms birds and words have improved the roller hobby as no other breed has been improved by the influence of one fancier.
I am not going to try to present Bill to you as the Messiah of roller pigeons, or that every thing he says or has said should be inscribe in stone. In his lifetime, he has changed his views on certain aspects of the hobby and birds.
This is as normal and healthy as apple pie. What galls the very soul of a person who has known Pensom, has seen his birds spin and compared the type he keeps and advocates against the round, little dumplings being pushed by some of the leading show men, is to be at a show like the Milwaukee National and hear some drippy nosed idiot of a few years experience expound on the lack of ability and merit of Bill Pensom and his birds. Most of the leading Roller men in the United States today, who gained their reputation in the flying game, acclaim Bill Pensom as the worlds foremost breeder of Roller pigeons. Ninety percent of the country’s leading showmen claim he is far less.
That my friends, if you will think about it, ought to tell you something.