Susan C. Anthony

PigeonA Tale of Two Pigeons

Today I’m going to talk about pigeons. It’s a subject I know something about. When I was a kid, my dad worked in the grain elevators at Archer Daniel. He had a great idea that we could make a little extra money by catching pigeons and selling them to a local hunting club. So late in the night, my brothers, my dad and I would climb way, way up in the dark elevators to where the pigeons roosted. There were thousands and thousands of them. We’d capture them with a big net and then lower them down. We made a few hundred dollars selling them for 25¢ apiece, until my dad came down with pigeon fever and we had to abandon the whole idea.

Anyway, I’ve titled this talk the “Tale of Two Pigeons.” I’m going to tell you about two special pigeons Susan and I have encountered within the last few years.

The first one we named Petey. Some neighbors down the street had a pigeon coop and our dog always stopped by to check it out on our daily walks. One day the dog came home after a walk of his own acting sneaky and looking kind of funny. I investigated and saw one little feather sticking out from between his teeth. I pried his jaws open and there was Petey, covered with dog slime but amazingly still alive. We probably should have named him Jonah, come to think of it. His heart was beating fast and he had a terrified look in his eye, but he seemed mostly unhurt though quite wet.

One of his legs seemed to have been injured so I fixed up a cage in the garage and provided him with straw, food, water, and freedom to hop and fly around the garage. As the weeks passed, he got better and better, but it was wintertime and there were a lot of owls in the area, not to mention dogs. Petey spent a good deal of time near the window in the garage, looking outside. Was he longing for his freedom, I wondered? He would fly back to the cage but when I tried to touch him, he pecked at me and flapped his wings angrily. He never tamed.

As spring drew near, I put the cage outside, up under an eave so nothing could get him. I left the door open, so he could fly around and be free but also return for food and shelter. Once I opened the door, he was gone. The last I saw him he was perched on top of a neighbor’s roof. I don’t imagine he survived for long. He got his longed-for freedom at a cost. I believe it cost him his life.

The second pigeon in my story was named Charlie. He showed up one day at the cabin of a friend in Alaska's interior. It was strange to see a pigeon flying around in the wild up there. We speculate that Charlie may have escaped from a birder.

In any case, he showed up and our friend Al started putting out food. He built a ledge where the bird could sit and look in the window. Over time, Charlie became more and more comfortable with Al and began hopping to a ledge inside the window on occasion. After all, there was nobody around but Al. Charlie started taking food from Al’s hand. After awhile, Al set up a box on a shelf in the cabin and Charlie moved right in.

Some time later, Al learned that Charlie was really Charlene. She laid an egg, and has continued to lay eggs regularly, 34 so far. Al collects them and includes them in his omelets. A weasel killed one of Al’s chickens and started stalking Charlene. Al got out the gun and a weasel pelt is now hanging on his wall. Last time we were up there he showed us four of Charlene's tail feathers a gyrfalcon captured during an aerial attack. Charlene thankfully survived.

The point of these stories lies in the difference between these two pigeons. One longed for freedom and met an early death. One learned to trust and secured for herself a home and a protector. Charlene has freedom. She comes and goes as she likes. Petey could have had the same, but he preferred to do things his way.

There’s an old saying, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never really was.”

You know, that’s what God does for us. He loves us. He set us free. He provides for us and gives us all that we need. He has more to give than we can imagine in terms of love. But He doesn’t bully us. He doesn’t set traps for us or lock us into cages. It’s our decision whether to take shelter under His wings and enjoy eternal life with Him or to persist in doing things our own way regardless of the cost or consequences.

In Deuteronomy 30:19-20, God clearly lays out the choice he provided Israel, including His hope they would choose well.

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Israel chose the curses rather than the blessings. It is my hope and prayer that everyone here today will choose blessings instead of curses.

Go on to read The Valley of the Shadow of Death
Source:, ©Susan C. Anthony