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Catch That Pigeon: A Short Story by cam

Updated on July 6, 2015
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Chris has written more than 100 flash fiction/short stories.Working Vacation took 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

Author's Note

This story, and the two before it, are loosely based on events of my childhood. The more dramatic parts are pure fiction, but most of the details are true. I'll leave a list of the real parts at the end. I hope you enjoy my latest story in this series, Catch That Pigeon.

Red and White Wild Pigeon

Source

Tom drove the final nail through the plywood into the two-by-four. All he had left to do was assemble the parts and add some chicken wire. By the time the night was over, his whole plan would be ready to go.

“Whatcha building,” said Rick, Tom’s best friend and neighbor, who was his own age of thirteen years. Rodney, Rick’s ten year old brother picked up one of the panels.

“Looks like it’s gonna be some kinda cage.”

“That’s right,” said Tom. “A pigeon cage.”

“We ain’t got no pet pigeons,” said Rick.

“Not yet, we don’t.” said Tom. “But we will after we spend the night here in the barn.”

“What’re you talkin about?” said Rick.

“The pigeons sleep up in the rafters, don’t they? All we gotta do is go up and get em,” said Tom.

This is a recent photo of the barn on the farm where I grew up.  As you can see, aluminum siding now covers the old, vertical, wood siding.
This is a recent photo of the barn on the farm where I grew up. As you can see, aluminum siding now covers the old, vertical, wood siding. | Source

The barn was one of the big, red barns that were still found on nearly every farm in Indiana in 1970. The upper level was for hay to feed the dairy cows and straw for bedding. The lower level was for farm machinery. Tom’s father had taken out half of the hay loft, leaving that part of the building open from the concrete floor to the rafters forty feet above. This was done so that big pieces of machinery like the corn picker would fit inside. Rick and Rodney looked up at the rafters.

“You’re gonna climb up there?” said Rick.

“Yep. I’ll grab two pigeons and we’ll put em in the cage,” said Tom.

“Why?” said Rick. “You ain’t thinkin about eatin their eggs are you?”

“No, we’re gonna send messages with em.”

“Messages to who?” said Rodney.

“Each other,” said Tom. “We’ll build a cage at your house and keep one pigeon there. When we want to send a message, I’ll bring your pigeon here and let it go with a note tied to its leg. It’ll fly right back to your cage. And when you want to send a message to me, you can take mine to your house.”

“How’d you come up with that idea?” said Rodney.

“I read about it in a book,” said Tom.

“I hate readin,” said Rodney.

“I know. That’s why I come up with all the good ideas,” said Tom.

Homemade Pigeon Cage

Source

The three boys finished putting the cage together and later that night, after supper, went to the hay loft which was filled with stacked bales of hay. They made a hideout by pulling out several sections of bales all the way to the floor, then unrolled their sleeping bags and waited for the barn to become completely dark.

“What kind of messages are we gonna send with the pigeons?” said Rick.

“Whatever we want,” said Tom. “But it should be important stuff. Like if there’s an earth quake or a tornado.”

“I ain’t never felt an earthquake here,” said Rodney.

“We could send a message if we see suspicious people driving around. You know, like the ones who steal corn from the fields before it gets hard so they can eat it like sweet corn,” said Rick.

“Right,” said Tom. “Important stuff like that.”

“Why don’t we just use the telephone?” said Rodney.

“Shut up, Rodney,” said Rick and Tom.

Inside the Barn

I've indicated with red Xs the route we took up to the top of the barn to catch pigeons.
I've indicated with red Xs the route we took up to the top of the barn to catch pigeons. | Source

The sun set and the light faded until Tom could barely see his friends sitting on their sleeping bags.

“It’s time,” said Tom. “Rick, you take this flashlight and shine it on the pigeons when I tell you to. They won’t fly when they are blinded by the light.”

Tom went down the ladder from the hay loft and crossed to the barn’s end wall. He began climbing at the corner of the building where a series of planks ran end to end up the entire height of the barn. This was where he found the best hand and foot holds.

Tom moved slowly, looking down from time to time at the John Deere plow and other pieces of machinery. In spite of the summer heat, he wore a winter coat so he could put the pigeons inside. His cotton shirt captured the sweat as he strained to pull himself higher. He reached the point where the vertical support boards met the ceiling about ten feet to the right of the peak.

He had to move to his left in order to position himself directly beneath the pigeons. The boards to which his toes and fingers clung were nailed flush against the barn’s siding, so that he could only grip the top edges. He could hear the birds cooing as he drew nearer.

“Rick, shine the light on the pigeons,” he said. A yellow beam illuminated several birds. Most were the common black, grey and white, but one was red and white. That was the bird Tom wanted. He would take one of the others for Rick and Rodney, but the red and white pigeon was for him.

He crept sideways a few more feet. The birds remained perfectly still with the light blinding them. Tom let go of the board with his left hand and reached toward the frightened bird. It tried to move away, but was blocked by the other pigeons. Tom stretched until his finger tips grazed across soft feathers. He gripped the red and white pigeon and slipped it inside the coat, against his wet shirt. He clutched one of the other birds and shoved it in next to the red and white one.

He climbed back down and jumped the last few feet to the ground where Rick and Rodney waited.

Common, Colored, Wild Pigeon

Source

“What now?” asked Rodney, as they put the pigeons in the cage.

“Tomorrow, we’ll build the cage at your house and put your pigeon in it. We’ll let them get used to being fed every day and to being safe from cats and hawks. That’s what will cause them to keep going back to the cage, especially if they know they can get out during the daytime.”

“You read all this in a book?” said Rodney.

“That’s right. I got it at the library,” said Tom.

“I hate readin,” said Rodney.

“That’s why you never have any good ideas,” said Tom.

“I do so,” said Rodney.

“Name one,” said Tom.

“How about that rabbit trap I invented? I tied a string to a stick and used it to prop up a wood crate. I put a carrot under the crate and waited for a rabbit to come along and try to get it. Then I’d pull the string so the crate would fall over the rabbit,” said Rodney.

“Did you ever catch a rabbit?” said Rick.

“No, but it was still a good idea,” said Rodney.

“You really need to get a library card,” said Tom.

A few days later, Tom went out to the barn. Tom had sent his pigeon home with Rick and Rodney the night before and Tom expected to see the red and white bird roosting in the cage that morning with a small piece of paper banded to its leg.

Sure enough, his own pigeon was inside the cage. Tom caught the red and white bird and removed the slip of paper, then sat down to read the important communication.

There were two messages. The first was from Rick. It said, Lets go fishin today. The other, in Rodney’s sloppy printing, read, Whats a liberricard?

“Well, they’re not important messages, but at least it works,” Tom said to the pigeon.

The next day, a group of local farmers and the county sheriff were holding a meeting in the barnyard of the farm belonging to Tom’s parents.

“Somebody is sneaking onto the property of farmers all over the county and stealing their gasoline and diesel fuel,” said the Sheriff. “Some of you right here have been robbed over the last couple of weeks.”

“They drained my storage tanks and siphoned the fuel out of my tractors and trucks,” said one farmer.

“Those crooks never use our driveways. They drive across fields, even fields of corn and soy beans, and sneak onto the property late at night,” said another.

“How many of you have had a good farm dog shot with arrows?” asked the Sheriff. Several men raised their hands.

“They coaxed my dog in with fresh meat, then shot him dead,” said a man named Lester. “Found the meat and the dog the next morning.”

Carrier or Homing Pigeons With Notes Attached to Legs

Source

Tom, Rick and Rodney had heard enough and returned to the barn. There hadn’t been much room to spare on the ground floor, so they had built the pigeon cage in the hayloft.

“I was thinkin while the Sheriff and the farmers were talkin,” said Tom. “Our pigeons should be deliverin messages about important stuff like that, not stupid things like goin fishin and library cards.”

“Me and Rodney have to go home for dinner now. We can come back later if you wanna sleep in the barn tonight,” said Rick.

“What if those crooks come while we’re up there?” said Tom.

“I ain’t stayin out here if them bad guys is comin,” said Rodney.

“You’re nothin but a little chicken,” said Rick.

“Let him stay at home,” said Tom. “I got to admit, it scares me a little bit too. When you come back tonight, Rick, bring your pigeon just in case we need to send a message to Rodney during the night.”

“And I’ll know if the pigeon comes back. Uncle Bob put a lectric door bell on our cage. When the pigeon flies in, it hits a wire that makes the bell go off,” said Rodney.

“And the cage is right outside our bedroom window, so you should be able to hear it.”

The two brothers left, and Tom went to the house for his own dinner. He had quite a time convincing his parents to let him sleep in the barn, but they finally conceded.

Rick and Tom met in their hideout in the hay loft. The sun was setting and they could hear the cows moving out into the pasture for the night.

“There’s a lot of farms for them bad guys to steal from ain’t there?” said Rick.

“Yeah, what’re the chances they’d pick our farm tonight?” said Tom.

“Chances are slim to none,” said Rick.

“And slim’s outa town,” Said Tom.

"At 2:00 am, one of the sliding doors rolled open..."

Here you can see the sliding doors and get at least a hint of the lower level of the barn.
Here you can see the sliding doors and get at least a hint of the lower level of the barn. | Source

When Tom’s Dad had taken out half the hay loft so big machinery could be stored there, he had also put in two large sliding doors in the side of the barn. As the boys slept, there was a corn picker, a farm truck and a tractor downstairs. All of them had fuel in their tanks. At 2:00 am, one of the sliding doors rolled open.

“What was that?” said Rick.

“That was trouble-come-a-Knockin, my Mom would say,” said Tom.

Tom and Rick crawled to the edge of the loft and looked down into the lower level. They couldn’t see anything, but they could hear two men talking in hushed voices.

“There’s lotsa fuel here, so lets work fast,” said one of the men.

“I always work fast, Larry, why you gotta make it sound like I don’t?” said the other.

“Shut up and start siphoning, Marvin, you idiot,” said Larry. “Just look at all this equipment. These farmers are rich is what it looks like to me.”

“Let’s get outa here fast,” said Rick.

“How are we gonna get out? If we go down the ladder or the stairway, they’ll see us. If we open one of the sliding doors and jump, they’ll hear us,” said Tom

“The pigeon,” said Rick. “ We gotta let it go, now.”

They made their way to the cage and opened the door. Rick picked up his pigeon, while Tom went to their sleeping place to write the note. On his way back, he was climbing out of their hideout and accidentally pulled a bale of hay off the top of a stack. It landed on loose hay which muffled the sound, but not nearly enough for the thieves to miss it.

The sound of five gallon cans being set down on concrete told the boys that they didn’t have much time to hide themselves. Tom’s fingers felt like wooden sticks as he tried to wrap the note onto the leg of the pigeon.

“Hurry,” said Rick.

“I’m tryin,” said Tom. “My fingers won’t work right, I’m so scared.” But the note was on and Rick turned the bird loose. It flew over the two men below, then out through the sliding doorway.

“It was Just a stupid pigeon,” said Marvin.

“That little pigeon didn’t make the thud we just heard,” said Larry.

“Maybe we scared it, and it flew into the side of the barn,” said Marvin.

“Could be,” said Larry. “But you get up there and see if there’s anything suspicious.”

Pigeons, Beautiful Birds

Source

Tom and Rick jumped into the hideout and covered themselves with their sleeping bags, cowering in the corners of the dark space. They heard Marvin climbing the stairs and attempting to walk across the top of the stacked hay. Curses rang out every few seconds as his foot found another empty space between the bales.

“Larry, there ain’t nothin up here but hay,” said Marvin. We’re wastin time.”

“Well, you just waste another minute and make sure, then get back down here and finish siphoning the gas outa that truck,” said Larry.

Marvin took one more step and discovered something that exists in every hay loft on farms where young boys live. A hideout. He landed on the uneven, old floorboards. His ankle twisted, giving off a cracking noise as tendons and ligaments stretched and tore.

Marvin’s cry of pain alarmed and angered Larry. He abandoned all efforts to continue stealing the fuel and ran up the steps and across the hay bales, calling out to Marvin.

“I’m down here. Be careful where you step, Larry.”

“Okay, I’m here. Dang, it’s dark down there. I’m holding out my hand. See if you can grab it”.

Larry hauled Marvin out of the hole and helped him to the stairway.

“You sure ruined this heist,” said Larry. “Let’s get out of here. It’s a shame leavin all this gas and diesel behind though.”

Larry had parked at the entrance of the barn’s sliding door. He put the truck in reverse and the backup lights illuminated a vehicle pulling in behind him.

“What the….”

Two men approached on either side with handguns pointed at the open windows.

“Out of the truck you two. This game is over,” said the Sheriff.

A small crowd gathered in the dark outside the barn as the Sheriff and his Deputy handcuffed Larry and Marvin. Rick and Tom had climbed down from the hayloft, and Tom’s Dad had come from the house. Rodney and his father were there as well.

“Does anyone have anything they want to say to these two before I take them away?” said the Sheriff.

Rick walked up to Marvin.

“My pigeon ain’t stupid,” he said.

Tom stepped forward and looked up at Larry.

“And all those farmers you been stealin from. They ain’t rich.”

The next day, Tom, Rick and Rodney sat in the hayloft.

“That sure was a good idea you came up with about having pigeons to carry messages,” said Rick to Tom.

“I wouldn’t of had the idea if I hadn’t read it in a book,” said Tom.

“That reminds me,” said Rodney. “I gotta leave now. Mom is takin me into town.”

“Where are you going,” said Tom.

“We’re gonna go get me one of them liberricards,” said Rodney.

Visiting the Old Farm

My son, brother and me visiting the old barn, December, 2014.
My son, brother and me visiting the old barn, December, 2014. | Source

Parts of This Story That Are True

Rick, Rodney and I did build our own pigeon cages and catch pigeons in the barn.

The climb up to the rafters was real.

We did spend a lot of nights in the barn.

Gasoline and diesel were stolen from the farmers.

Forts and hideouts in the hayloft were under constant construction.

My father did remodel the barn so that we could park large pieces of equipment inside.

To my knowledge, Rodney never got a liberricard.

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    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 21 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Deb, I have been waiting for you to read this story with fear and trepidation because I don't know anything about carrier/homing/messenger pigeons. I only know what I learned with pigeons as a kid. And when you finally show up, not a word about birds. Its burglarized, not robbed. I'm still laughing. I will make that change immediately. Thank you for reading and thank you so much for helping me get the details right. It is important, as we both know.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 21 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Chris, the story is terrific, as most of the things that we glean from real life are. However, I need to make one suggestion. For this to sound real, the sheriff, would say that the farmers had been burglarized, not robbed. A robbery is a threat or implication of physical injury.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 22 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Ruby, it is fun mixing truth and fiction in these stories. I have a wealth of material from my childhood. I've been reading Stephen King's "On Writing" and he spends a lot of the book on his own childhood, showing how to mix elements of real life with fiction. Thanks for reading.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 22 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Ann, I'm glad you found time between "short trips" to read this story. They did steal our gasoline, but we never caught the thieves. This was my chance to get even. Thanks for reading.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 22 months ago from Southern Illinois

      This was a great story Cam. I liked the fact that parts were personal and true...Well done...

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 22 months ago from SW England

      Wouldn't it have been great if you'd really been responsible for catching the thieves?!

      Charming story; you captured the boys' fear and kept the suspense going.

      Several hubs to catch up on; too many short trips away lately!

      Ann :)

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 22 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Randy, I was the victim of tunnel catastrophes too many times to remember, but it never stopped me from building the next one. Thanks for reading, and I'm glad I could help bring back some good memories.

    • Randy Horizon profile image

      Randy Hirneisen 22 months ago from Philadelphia

      Loved your story Chris. We also used to make forts in my Grandmother's barn when I was a kid. We used to build tunnels in the hay bales too, at least until my Grandmother found out. She was afraid the hay bales would fall on us and we'd be trapped. Used to love jumping down the hay hole too. Reading your story brings back some found memories. Thanks.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 22 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Lee, I appreciate your kind comments about the story. Thanks for taking time to read and comment.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 22 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      thumbi7, It's nice to have you visit my hub. Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • profile image

      Lee Cloak 22 months ago

      Great story, really good writing, a very engaging piece of story telling, thanks for sharing, voted up, Lee

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 22 months ago from India

      Wonderful story. hearing about messenger pigeons give me a nostalgic feeling

      Voted up and shared

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 22 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Venkatachari M, I'm glad you found the story interesting. Thanks for stopping by.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 22 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Elsie, I appreciate you taking time to read and comment here. There is nothing like growing up on a farm. It is an experience for a child like no other. Thank you for the kind comments.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 22 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very interesting story. Thanks for sharing it. Voted up.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton

      I like the adventure feel I got while reading this story cam.. a great little share my friend...

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 22 months ago from New Zealand

      Enjoyed reading this wonderful story very much, I was also lost in it as I was reading it. Living in a farming community all my life I can understand those thefts, fuel always going missing, plus a whole lot more, and very true farmers are not rich like many people seem to believe.

      Thanks you are a good writer.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 22 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      AliciaC, I'm glad you found the story to be enjoyable. It was a lot of fun to write too. Thanks for visiting and for leaving a comment.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 22 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Larry, Thank you for taking time to read this story and to leave a comment. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 22 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Shauna, It was a dream of a childhood on that farm. Somehow I learned to work hard and at the same time to play hard. I try to practice the same things today. Thanks for being here and reading my story.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 22 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Eric, Nice to see you here. I transport you in my stories. Let's hope I can continue bringing you back as well. Thanks for reading my story today.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 22 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Thanks Bill, you are very kind. I enjoy reliving those days when I write these stories. Thanks for reading and for your comments.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 22 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      John, I'm happy that you enjoyed this story. It's hard to believe that the true parts took place 45 years ago. In one way, it seems like yesterday. In another, like a different life. Thanks for reading.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 22 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a very enjoyable story, Chris. I love the way in which you wove fiction and fact.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 22 months ago from Oklahoma

      Wonderful story and great description of the carrier pigeon.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 22 months ago from Central Florida

      What a great story, Chris. I never understood how messenger pigeons worked. You explained it well.

      Hooray for the trio and pet pigeon for saving the day - er, night!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Cool story. You really transport me in your stories. Thanks

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      For a reader with a short attention span, like me, you are the perfect writer....plus the bonus that you are a damned fine writer. Loved the personal touch of this one.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 22 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Wonderful story Chris. I was totally lost in it as though I was one of the boys. I can imagine all those events unfolding. Well done.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 22 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Becky, I'm glad you had fun with this story. There is nothing like sleeping out in one of those relics of the 'old days'. Speaking of kittens, I climbed up to the top of the barn to get a pigeon once and ran into our tom cat up there looking for pigeons as well.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 22 months ago from Hereford, AZ

      F'un story, I spent a few nights in my cousins barn. We were watching out for the new kittens though.

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