Tom Sheehan ~ Pigeon Stuff

Gear shift in hand, changing needs and modes, I deliver a different picture of next-door humanity because I have some heavy stuff weighing on me that has to be shared. My neighbor, a Type A personality with a capital A, came to visit my daughter a few nights ago while I was at our high school ball game. Seems he has complained to proper Town Officials and to the neighbors directly in back of his house about their bird feeder. The bird feeder hangs on a limb of a maple tree about twenty feet inside their fence line. He says pigeons feed over there for free and then come to sit on his roof. The pigeons are going to wreck his roof, he says. He and his wife took pictures of seven pigeons feeding at the bird feeder, which then came directly and sat on his roof. Seven of them! Type A complained to the Town and they sent up a pigeon reconnoitering person and the PRP only counted one pigeon. The neighbor came home next day and six or seven pigeons were staring down at him, from his roof!

“It was eerie,” he said. “Can you imagine my feelings?” He called the Town again and they sent another PRP (they only have two pigeon guys and one of them’s a woman) and this PRP only counted two pigeons. Type A says he is going to sue his neighbors and the Town for a new roof, if and when the time comes. And then, to cap off his discussion, a little Merlot on his breath, his hair down as far as it can go, letting secrets out of his house where I grew up and came of age, (Type A bought the house from my cousin who had bought it from my sister) he sported his humanity and told my wife that he and his wife just bought a new parrot (his/her name is Cinnabar) and paid $400 for it. Birds of a feather squawk together, as one old sage said, or “the bird is on the wing, but that’s absurd, for I’ve always heard, the wing is on the bird.”

But friend Smitty in Jersey, a reader of deep stories from the past, says it best when he offers that my Type A neighbor will really have a bird when he finds out the other neighbor, the out back one, has been feeding the roof pigeons a bit of nuclear waste.

Tell me my decent old neighborhood hasn’t gone the way of odd works. Jayzus, but I wish some of my hardy old neighbors were here, old rugged brimstone-spouting Sam Parker (catcher for the Cornets and then the Phillies A’s) and Al Russell (gardener extraordinary and a man of ready wit) and Freddie Craft (the dog man with an acid tongue) and Lorne Greene (the great shortstop and centericeman who always asked questions) and Herb Wills (who took land back from the river because it was there for the taking, long before the Wetlands Act made the books), and never mind not asking for my father, the old Marine Corps Drill Sergeant. But, for historical purposes (viz., out of our A Gathering of Memories, Saugus 1900-2000” book where pigeon control was first mentioned hereabouts), I can now tell our contributors that The Pigeon Plucker lives! Once, a long time ago, a far-thinking man at a Town Meeting suggested the town ought to hire a Pigeon Plucker to rein in the pigeons aloft in the Town Hall belfry. He never knew to what extent the problem would run, or the extent of unlimited destruction on a grand scale.

Yet ever since my mother passed on, when the grandchildren are here, the little ones, I make crazy sounds in my throat, sounding like Cwoo cwoo, trebling my voice and saying, “Listen to Nana’s pigeons,” for, my god, she loved to hear them acooing and acarrying on. Now we have an anti-Audubon lighting up the neighborhood. Woe is woe! All is well that she is not here to hear.

It does not stop with this most recent incident, or with this indictable flock. My daughter works for the USPO and has a route in a North Shore community with lots of money in the area where the land of high-walled estates runs all the way to the horizon or the Atlantic, whichever comes first.

Last summer one wealthy and eccentric woman in her late 80s, who still drives, found a pigeon across the street from my house as she was heading home from having her hair done. The pigeon was injured and could not fly. The woman drove a big white station wagon loaded with all kinds of collectible items she has come across in her travels and put the bird in the back of the wagon and returned home. She didn’t know what to do with the pigeon, but when the weather shortly turned very hot, up over 90 degrees for practically the next two weeks, she ran the car engine so the A/C would run and keep her friend cool. The bird was with her for all that hot spell of the summer. On a number of occasions she had seen hawks nab bunnies in her wide fields and dared not let the wounded pigeon out of the car, to be at the mercy of the hawks. In fact, her unmarried daughter kept up a hawk patrol for the bunnies, at times trying to scare off the predators.

The woman on a daily basis kept asking my daughter what she should do with the bird and my daughter said she could drop him off here (as this is where he came from, probably off the roof next door), but the woman didn’t or wouldn’t and finally let the bird go near the beach in Gloucester where she apparently only saw seagulls and no hawks. That’s the last I’ve heard of that bird, unless he’s homed his way back here and is now driving my neighbor nuts.

Friend Smitty in NJ, who’s heard about the pigeons here, sends on a classic bunch of newspaper material about pigeons there, on the tollbooth roofs of New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway and how one company has been awarded a $69,000 contract to take care of the little bastards, but the thinking here is the rich eccentric lady from the wealthy North Shore town, whose land does run off to the Atlantic, the one with the pigeon wagon A/C, could probably underwrite that whole contract. Truth is, she’s probably more apt to settle a trust fund on a halfway house for her friends that flock together. Knowing the flight path and the plight wrath, the house next door could well be the one she would settle on, nuclear waste being discounted for the time being.

Questions and comments arise though, from Jimmy and other Jersey folk: Why are there not more trained pigeon people on your town’s pigeon staff? What are your tax dollars for anyhow? And “I have a question for the Merlot-man: Can Cinnabar be trained to fly outside and kill pigeons? If not, for four bills he can probably get a hawk trained to fly roofwise and kill pigeons and will likely do the job handily, but that might mean another mess of blood, feathers and shit being thrown all around. Meanwhile, a caution is advanced here for the town pigeon man: Be sure not to imbibe alcohol for at least 8 hrs. in advance of rooftop pigeon-dropping maintenance or count assessment. Are these pigeons or are they really morning doves? Does the neighbor know the difference? Morning doves are generally ground feeders but have been known to perch on a bird feeder to knock food to the ground and even occasionally one or two may perch on rooftops or telephone lines. The keen observer may even witness them on trips to the liquor store. Hell, if they can get handle nuclear waste, don’t you think they can handle a little bit of booze?”

News flashes arise also, from such varied sources: Opening of a second front in the emerging pigeon wars, the southern or New Jersey front, involving big bucks and a world dot com organization. The neighbor here, perhaps, could be the spearhead of the long-range reconnaissance of pigeons (LRRP) for the northern flank. War is hell, man.

Jimmy goes on to say, Those humble, ubiquitous birds indeed hold a certain fascination for some scientists because of what we and them don’t know about pigeons; the homing pigeons’ feats of long range navigation, for example. More mysterious is the biological radar that they seem to possess. How do pigeons manage to get out of the way of a car just in the nick of time? They don’t seem to look all that aerodynamically efficient, or that alert. Some scientists theorize that their “radar” is perhaps a hyper-sensitivity to magnetism, moving/flying with ease in their own lines-of-force universe and shitting wherever they damn well please,” and with splendid aim on windshields or roofs of cars. It seems they love convertibles with a true passion.

They also ask, if he’s not otherwise occupied, could my neighbor consult with Avian Flyway Inc., the outfit that had the original NJ contract and looks as if it has the new one? The gains for him could be propitious.

Jim also says he has a vision in the belief that everything happens for a reason and nothing is ever wasted. How about this? 2000 years after Pax Romana, its bastard spawn, Pax Americana, moves into the 21st century. New empire. Novus Odo/New order subjugating the peoples of the globe with fearsome weapons, explosives sometimes being made from the nitrates harvested from, you guessed it, pigeon shit!

It’s like another correspondent from Jersey wrote to an editor of a newspaper down that way, re: pigeon shit on the roofs of tollbooths on the Garden State Parkway: and was outraged that nearly $70,000 of our money is to be spent on a replacement pigeon deterrent system. The writer is equally outraged to read Garden State Parkway official statement that the Avis Flyway Inc. method is the only method that has worked well. But he clearly sees another solution that would have better results, and would forever eliminate the need of a replacement system. It’s simple; remove the tollbooths. There goes the pigeon problem.

This I know, that some pigeon group has been reconnoitering my house for the past few weeks, and have definitely established lookout posts behind various covers. If they settle in here, I might find a sequel.


Tom Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry, Korea 1951-52, and graduated Boston College in 1956. His books are Epic Cures; Brief Cases, Short Spans; Collection of Friends; From the Quickening; The Saugus Book; Ah, Devon Unbowed; Reflections from Vinegar Hill; This Rare Earth & Other He has published 28 books, which include the western collections The NationsWhere Skies Grow Wide and Cross Trails published by Pocol Press, and Six Guns, Inc., by Nazar Look and three titles issued in 2016, The Cowboys, Swan River Daisy and Jehrico. He has multiple work in following publications: Rosebud, Literally Stories, DM du Jour, Danse Macabre, Linnet’s Wings, Serving House Journal, Eclectica, Copperfield Review, La Joie Magazine, Soundings East, Vermont Literary Review, Literary Orphans, Indiana Voices Journal, Frontier Tales, Western Online Magazine, Provo Canyon Review, Vine Leaves Journal, Nazar Look, Eastlit, Rope & Wire Magazine, The Literary Yard, Green Silk Journal, Fiction on the Web, The Path, Faith-Hope and Fiction, The Cenacle, etc.

He has 30 Pushcart nominations, and five Best of the Net nominations (and one winner) and short story awards from Nazar Look for 2012- 2015, and a Georges Simenon Fiction Award. He is 2016 Writer-in-Residence at Danse Macabre Magazine in Las Vegas.

Under consideration are Valor’s Commission (collection, military stories), The Keating Script (novel), and Small Victories for the Soul (poetry collection).

The latest Harry Krisman Mystery Vigilantes East is now available exclusively on His poetry collection To Athens from Third Base are forthcoming in 2017 from Hammer & Anvil Books.

Read more of Tom’s classic American storytelling in
DM 107 ~ Saugus, a, um
Now open


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