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Saturday, July 16, 2011


This story is about a racing pigeon flying across the English Channel prior to D-Day.
Very few people know how many racing pigeons were used on the days just prior the biggest invasion, ever.
And few appreciate that many of the birds that were used were probably Sions or bloodlines related to such.
Secret notes went back and forth on the legs of the birds from England to the French Underground and vice versa.
Those notes helped save the world.
What you are about to read is just my imagination.
A little mess with truth .
But the truth is there, of what it must have been like.
Its different.
No Sweat

JUST MY IMAGINATION By Earl Lowell "Robbie aka "No Sweat" Robbins, Jr.‏

June 5,1944, Paris, France

But of course trees can cry, a building, too.
And these trees and the building had been so long heart broken that their tears were now gone.
For four years their tears had fallen.
And as anyone knows there are only so many tears.
Now, the gaiety of past times was but a faint memory and all that remained was a single panzer tank with its young soldier above the turret moving slowly up and down the Champs Elysees, zig zagging in its turns.
Oppression's barrel.
A tiger?
In earth's ores.
Oh, but the trees on both sides of that special avenue for more than a mile did weep.
Their green more grey but green still.

Little wings slicing through a grey dream.
This is a dream is it not?
Grey wings still.
And grey dream, more.
But not so grey, no.
Camouflaged hope.
Hope comes that way.
Is it not true?

From son to father little wings flew, Robert Sion to Paul Sion.
Son in London, father in France.
From son itself in feather one loft to its own father in another loft as well.
And more.

A pigeon knows its father, though such secret but true.
What path truer could there be?
Blood flying to blood.
212 miles from London to Paris.
Where else could a pigeon go so unnoticed?
Where else indeed.
The most common bird in the world in a very uncommon way.
A million lives in those wings.
No, tens of millions.
What message does it own?

Camouflaged hope, indeed.

The three pigeons on the Arch de Triomphe paid little mind to the tank.
Those pigeons knew nothing of little wings slicing.
They were diversions at nature's smile.
Two of the birds were dark some, the other, white;
Two males and a hen in that ancient contest of love.
The males on either side, bent forward, tails spinning, frantically cooing, suitors oblivious except for each other.
She pretends not to see them, almost.
Nearly still, she is indifferent to their strutting and show.
But she is watching, yes
Spin small bird.
Man remains jealous.

"THE COW SKIPPED OVER THE SUN SIX HUNDRED AND SIXTY SIX TIMES," says little wings' secret message:
Coded: "D-DAY, JUNE 6."
Winds in little wings slicing face, waves below, clouds encompass.
Yes, that nowhere to land English Channel.
Death's gaping jaws.
A homing pigeon comes home.
A racing homer makes an art of it.
Home owns its heart unlike any other.
Feathered serpents fly far beyond the Galapagos, do they not?.
They see what man doesn't and feel what he can't.

The best messages are felt.
But Little Wings Slicing compared.
A message to save the world.
And all, yeah, on the leg of a poor pigeon.

And what of the face of the French Resistance?
Have you seen a bird smile in the sun?
Have you seen sparrows attack hawks?
Have you watched birds in a storm?
You see then the face of resistance.
Vestal Virgins waiting for their pigeon.

Noah waiting for that dove compounded.

Beneath those pigeons on the Arc de Triomphe, those common pigeons of little note, was a large shield lying on the ground and on that shield was a sword;
France's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier;
An eternal flame burning there.
Camouflaged hope.
A flame of yellow and sometimes red matching the colors in the eyes reflecting off little wings slicing as he follows his brother.
A brother not seen but there.
No markers in the sky or on the water.
Just following a feeling.

June 1.
That's when the brother of Little Wings Slicing flew.
The British and Americans were boarding.
June 5 was to be the day.
Then came the storm, that crucial eye on time and place in peril.
That exact full moon and that exact spring tide so in fate, so crucial.

Descendant from Lascaux was little wings slicing.
Jupiter's son.
And long before all that the men as well.
All from the sea but such diversions at survival's mold.
One with feather, the other with barrel.
And before the sea?
Do galaxies not make war?

The three pigeons on the Arc de Triomphe lifted and flew.
The hen's wings beating steady as her suitors V-winged glided.
Each landing on a shield high atop, Napoleon's Austerlitz engraved there on.
So queer that birds don't keep flying beyond the dream.
Queer too, how the sun's passing messes.

Allies changing with rotating shadows.
Could General Vandamme forecast a common pigeon courting on his memory?
Did Napoleon's artillerists throw a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary into a fire for warmth and it wouldn't burn?

That demure hen, smaller than her suitors, head cocked looking with one eye down at France's Elysian fields, that impressive promenade, seeing the tank.
As if some louse in her wing.
A pigeon sees clearer than man, does it not?
Man to pigeon, pigeon to man.
Silent wings would follow in the form of poor gliders as Basque berets with a pigeon feather brooch, destroyed railroads, bridges and fear.
Later roosting on The Croix de Lorraine.

To touch your son's words, to save your home, to dream of tomorrow.
Paul Sion, bald, mustached, a drifter in a white collar, maybe so, more common than the most common of pigeon, waited at the open window.
Beside him, another Maquis in a black beret.
Grey eyes in the grey.
But a heart not so.

Such a difference in a pigeon's coo and the sound of a gun.
One velvet, soft and powdery.
The other, time's revenge.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Other SION Specialist in the Picture

Meet the man standing to the the right of Charles Heitzman
in the picture featured on the World of Wings website.

"In 1974, E. Lowell Robbins, Jr. aka "Robbie" or "No Sweat" became the youngest racing pigeon breeder ever to win the National Show in New York; a feat that still remains to this day. In 1978, he won the top three shows in the USA and was the first man ever to do this thus setting a new bar in excellence. Over the years some of the major shows that he has judged have been THE NATIONAL YOUNG BIRD SHOW, THE SOUTHERN RACING PIGEON SHOW, THE SOUTHERN RACING PIGEON--DIXIE SHOW, THE MIDWEST OPEN SHOW, THE LOUISVILLE COMBINE SHOW, THE KENTUCKY STATE FAIR SHOW, THE BELLVILLE, ILLINOIS SHOW, THE CHICAGO COMBINE SHOW, etc. He has been throughout the United States and inside many of its premiere racing lofts. The best racing man he ever knew was Charles Heitzman. In showing, his lifelong friend, Jim Isselhardt was always his best competition. At the National Young Bird Show in Louisville when Douglas McClary from England flew over to judge more than 500 young bird racing homers divided into 18 classes, Robbins won 17 of those classes; Jim Isselhardt won one class that he did not and in that class the judging was extremely "flip a coin" close as was so stated by McClary. This class was the BBYC class in which Robbins placed second. That one BBYC went onto win the show and became one of Jim's favorite show birds of all times, "NATIONAL LEGEND." When Robbins entered THE SRPA SHOW each year throughout the southern states in the USA it was quite arguably the most competitive and prestigious show in all of America. Robbins entered this show seven times and won the show each and every time. No other fancier in the United States has ever replicated this feat. In racing, Robbins dominated his club during the years he flew with them winning average speed every season and never being beaten from any race 300 miles or beyond. Across the USA he set a new money winning record in 1971 in THE TWIN CITY GOLD BAND FUTURITY; he also bred the winners of THE BLACK HAWK FUTURITY, THE CONRAD MAHR FUTURITY, THE WALDO HOTCHKISS FUTURITY, THE LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY FUTURITY, THE CHARLES HEITZMAN MEMORIAL 500 MILE RACE and large races in New Orleans, Cincinnati, New York, etc.. Altogether in his more than 53 years experience with racing pigeons Robbins has accumulated over 800 first places. Today, Robbins is partners with John Hayes in Richmond, Kentucky. They maintain approximately 300 racing homers kept in five lofts. Just last year they had a young bird blue Bar Sion hen that flew 700 miles, setting a new long distance record in Kentucky. This year they have 28 young birds entered in 13 races across America. One of their goals is to fly all of their young birds out to at least 500 miles.

Charles Heitzman & E. L. Robbins, Jr. standing in front of Heitzman's main racing loft

SIONS being sent across North America
2011 RACING SCHEDULE - NO SWEAT LOFT - 28 total Entries in 13 Total Races as follows:

1. Wisconsin. 10 entries in THE 2011 MIDWEST 1 LOFT RACE SERIES. There are three races in this series. 100, 200 and 300 mile races.

2. Arizona, 4 entries in this race. THE 2011 AMERICAN RACING PIGEON UNION CONVENTION RACE, This is a 300 mile race.

3.Arizona. 1 Entry. The 2011 A.U. YOUTH RACE, This is a 200 mile race.

4. Florida. 3 entries in this race. THE 2011 GULF COAST CLASSIC. This is a 300 mile race.

5. Kentucky. 5 entries in this race series. THE 2011 LEXINGTON KENTUCKY 2 LOFT FUTURITY, There are four races in this series: 100, 150, 200, 280 miles.

6, Ohio. 2 Entries this race series. THE 2011 BUCKEYE CHALLENGE RACE. There are two races in this series: 150 and 250 miles.

7, Ohio. 3 Entries in this race series. 2011 Futurity. I believe this is a 300 mile race.

Robbins & Hayes are also considering entering Sions in the 1,000 mile pigeon race to be flown on July 11 with the Lexington and Frankfort, Kentucky clubs.

Intense pigeon handler & Heitzman Sion Specialist, E. Lowell Robbins, Jr. aka "Robbie" or "No Sweat" looks mellow while dining with wife Chesteen.

I'm sure there will be a positive Robbins & Hayes update this fall - Mike Taylor - TCC Loft

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bearing Black

Charles Heitzman liked a [red male] pigeon bearing a lot of Black in the tail ... Brought on by age, Black shows Strength

Sunday, July 10, 2011


by Earl Lowell "Robbie" aka "No Sweat" Robbins, Jr.

[Meet the man - TCC Loft will feature Sion Specialist "Robbie Robbins, Jr." in a loft report this week.]

August 22, 1961. Paris, France

The racing homer stood on one foot looking tranced into the yellowy light directed into its face by Francis Marroux's flashlight. Sometimes when a pigeon was at roost it would rest and lay on its keel keeping its legs and feet tucked just so, balancing as if it were sitting on eggs.

But sometimes not.

Sometimes when trying to roost the bird would stand on both legs.

Especially when the mosquitoes invaded.

Sometimes a pigeon would nearly close one eye while its other remained wider yet just as asleep.

And some rare times, both eyes closed and the bird dreams as birds do.

Pigeons own such rich lives in which they forget themselves.

They are aware to sunsets and shades of green and fireflies and how the moon is or is not full.

And because they see more beauty, see more light, they fly in heaven in their dreams and coo ever so gentle as they go.

In August in Paris it was impossible for a pigeon to dream for the air was warm and still, the Seine River's mosquitoes were searching for the skin of the bare legs and the fleshy eye ceres of pigeons.

Francis Marroux heard the birds tap dancing in the dark and knew his birds would have no dreams in their loft this night less the one they shared together called life.


That word Sion, kept bothering Francis.

. The Notre Dame cathedral was built on an island in the Seine River called Mount Sion.

Years ago, while Francis and the man he chauffeured and protected with his life so many times, Charles de Gaulle, had stepped from that cathedral he glanced up at gargoyle looking down at them as the the bells were being rung when he noticed bits of rock chipping oddly around them.


Bullets hitting in protected noise.

Such a close call.


Francis continued thinking.

His birds had been in the French Resistance.

And they had come indirectly from a man named Paul Sion.

Francis Marroux always found refuge in his loft.

No cathedral could compare.

It was a paradisiac place to rest and shut out the rest of the world.

And for a precious while allow his heart to be with his pigeons.

Ideologies and morals changed but the poor pigeon remained the same.

In his solitude, Francis Marroux, beguiled by his birds, thought of the car he always drove, a black Citroen Deesse, such a sleek and French beauty but still, nothing compared to his Sions.

In no way was it so bewitching.

Those Sions were brave and unsung and in this he found them as wonderful kindred spirits.

How many times had he and de Gaulle escaped death?


Yesterday, he had shifted down to third gear with two flat tires to gain control and keep the Citroen Deesse from flipping as thirteen bullets ripped through the metal all around them.

Last month, a bomb exploded in a sand pile and de Gaulle never paused, ordering him to drive straight on through the flames.

Before that?

So much, yes.

The pigeons listened to Francis Marroux's confessions.

He was afraid of dying.

But if he had to die then let him die with de Gaulle.

Let him die with a man as brave, no, more, than himself.

De Gaulle mocked death. "Such poor shots," he'd say. He said it so often, And always with no expression. De Gaulle's insistence upon the right of self-determination for the French colony of Algeria caused the shots.

The huge, round, stained--glass rose window centered atop the west entrance of Notre Dame cathedral crept into Francis Marroux's mind as his flashlight moved to another racer trying to roost.

Its feathers were such a lovely red.

The reddest blood of all, a pigeon owns, thought Francis Marroux.

So very red...

Oh how the pigeons love to play.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

SIONS by No Sweat

ROB - E. Lowell "No Sweat" Robbins, Jr. has written several loft reports over the years but prefers to feed his hungry and unbound creative writing style by writing fiction. He is not just a story teller and current author, but has long been a successful pigeon breeder, racer, and showman. The American Racing Pigeon News featured "The Robbins Loft" way back in May 1979, after Rob won the 1978 Y.B. National Show in Louisville, KY, the 1978 National Show in White Plains, N.Y. and the 1978 Southern R. P. Assn. Show in Charleston S.C. In his 53 years as a Heitzman Sion racing pigeon specialist Rob has won over 800 firsts in racing and shows.

Enjoy this could be true fictional story...

Lascaux, France, June, 1940

You couldn't see them unless they moved.

Five camouflaged German soldiers.

A reconnaissance patrol, fragments of the Blitzkrieg.

Each soldier owning a helmet woven with grasses coming from their location near the bank of the Vezere River.

Those helmets moving as queer nests with green and brown tentacles.

Come here, whispered a cave in the woods.

Caves do talk, don't they?

This cave was not so big. A hole in the ground. An old pine had fallen exposing its entrance.

In the blue heavens the Luftwaffe and their roar of so many planes were disappearing.

Then, for a moment it was suddenly quiet.

The Germans paused, surveying the countryside; so many yellow orchids, grasshoppers and black butterflies with their scarlet trim.

Though the sun warmed their helmets and gun barrels there was a slight current of a cool breeze waxing down from the northern slopes of the Pyrenees. With it was a clean and light smell of conifers and snow. Pairs of Alpine Choughs called loudly while entering nesting caves along a cliff's face. A minute later, a small and flitting bird moved across another cliff and disappeared into a crevice. Feeding on dandelion and thistle at the woodland's edge, four Citril Finch were confiding and persistent. The melodic song of the Rock Thrush was heard and a beautiful orange and blue male was spotted singing on a rock fence.

"I'm waiting," whispered the cave.

Finally, one of the patrol found it. Soon, the others came.

Footprints. Fresh. They appeared to be that of a man's and a boy.

The footprints lead only in.

The soldiers stood astonished. There was that innocent side of them that wanted to pretend they didn't see those footprints. If they found the man and the boy they would either have to shoot them or take them to an area where they would be trucked away and probably hanged.

But the cave was such a black temptress. And the German invaders were determined to impress upon the French that it was useless to resist.

"I don't like this," spoke sergeant Isselhardt.

Just beyond those footprints having once hidden the entrance there was a rock covered in fossils. On the other side of the rock there stood a paraffin lantern. Sergeant Isselhardt still had his small signal flashlight and he buttoned it to his left front shoulder so that it hung down and aimed where he was going so that he would be able to keep his hands free. "This way," he ordered to his men.

One by one the men climbed over the rock. Then, stopping, sergeant Isselhardt turned on his flashlight. "Sit down," he lowly spoke, lighting the lantern. Then he passed the lantern down to private Yoes at the end and began leading with his flashlight. The patrol made their way in a single file, so close that they were constantly touching each other.

"How's your light?" asked corporal Heitzmann, the second soldier in the line.

"I have never been in such darkness," spoke Goldshmidt, the soldier behind him with another flashlight. "There's a feeling of death here. Let's go back."

Sergeant Isselhardt felt the same but could not show it. "My own batteries are weak and I have no more," he said, overhearing the conversation. Stay close. No talking. We'll go back when I say we go back."

"When a man in a cave has his light go out it means another man is with that man's woman," responded Yoes, grinning and carrying the lantern, causing the other soldiers to smile as well.

The first twenty meters inside the cave continued to slope steeply downward. The uncertain light of sergeant Isselhardt's signal light barely pierced the darkness.

And private Yoe's lantern cast eerie shadows.

The men's eyes finally adjusted and when they did they stood spellbound.

"Look! Unbelievable! uttered Yoes. "Can this be real? Are we in a dream?"

"Stay quiet!" ordered sergeant Isselhardt.

Above the men all along the walls in hand-painted red, yellow, brown and black colors, were a striking series of primitive wall paintings; panels of bison, reindeer and fat belly horses; the animals looked frightened; they were so vivid and real as though they themselves were seeing, breathing, hurrying, some even swimming, some having shading and three dimensional qualities.

Further along on another wall, there was another panel of paintings depicting a great black bull hiding two cows. At the back of the panel there was a horse that seemed to be dashing towards the inmost depths of the gallery. On another wall, the focal point of the composition, there was a herd of small horses and a large black cow whose distinguishing feature was an unusual movement evocative of a fall.

Man the hunter.

A dream of no end.

Cave silence.

Nothing owns the quiet of a cave.

Except a grave.



The sound of a "coo" deep inside a cave?

A soft coo.

A lonely coo.

A coo of despair.

Somehow, each man knew that coo.

Only one bird in the world could make that exact sound, a pigeon.

But a pigeon does not dwell so deep in a cave, does it?


Once more the cave made that mourning sound.

And every few seconds again the silence was broken.

The soldiers walked toward the sound coming into another room. On the floor was the skull of an ibex covered in calcite. Beside it were two pack frames; Each frame held a wicker crate owning four small doors. In a small space at the top of each door was the head of a pigeon. At the top of each crate was a brass nameplate: PAUL SION --- TOURCOING, FRANCE.

Not just any pigeons.

One glance into their brilliant, dark eyes told they were no accident.

They were beyond nature's touch, the art of one man.

The birds held calm, a careful intelligence at play; they were the shimmering, elite representatives of the fastest flying birds in the world, a blend of peace and wonder, beautiful homing pigeons bred to race; Something about them was almost human, as though they could speak.

Sergeant Isselhardt knew about racing pigeons, having been in many races. Oddly enough, so had corporal Heitzmann and private Yoes. Even though they had been away from their birds for some time the pigeons had remained in their dreams and they were always with them. In those dreams they would stand there in their lofts finding peace. They hated waking from those dreams as those dreams were almost perfect. They hated "the other awake world" they now dwelled in. And they hated what they knew were their given orders if they found any homing pigeons: KILL ALL HOMING PIGEONS ON THE SPOT NO QUESTIONS ASKED! Even though they were Germans they knew of France's National Champion in racing pigeons, the world famous Paul Sion. No person could begin to match Sion's magic with pigeons. And to kill these magnificent racers, well, caused the soldiers a moment to pause.

"Rat-a-tat-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat-tat!" opened up two machine guns hidden in the black somewhere recessed in a cleft.

All five Germans in the patrol fell dead.

Paul Sion and his son, Robert, climbed down, keeping their machine guns trained on the lifeless German soldiers. The eagle symbols on those German uniforms paled in strength for the love that Paul Sion owned for their pigeons."Get a couple of their guns," ordered Paul. "We've gotta get out of here -- quick!".

Story by: E. Lowell "No Sweat" Robbins, Jr. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Charles Heitzman: Kentucky's Greatest Pigeon Flier

The Kentucky Explorer -- October 2010 -- Page 47

A Young Boy Returns A Lost Pigeon And Visits Heitzman's Loft

Author's Note: This is a true story about Charles Heitzman, the owner of the Heitzman Bakeries in Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky. He is known as Kentucky's finest pigeon flier. I was honored when a young boy to see his trophy room and library.

E. Lowell "No Sweat" Robbins, Jr. - 2010

I was sitting in the middle of the back seat of my grandfather's new 1961 white Chevrolet Impala four-door sedan headed west from Irvine, Estill County, Kentucky, to some place outside Louisville, Jefferson County, called Jeffersontown. My grandfather was driving, and Herman was riding shotgun. Herman ran the projectors at Grandfather's theater in Irvine. Though small in stature, my grandfather was anything but. He'd long been taking care of Herman's family, making certain they always had a roof over their heads. together, those two were quite the team, not because of work but because of the lifelong bond they owned for each other. By luck I had wound up in their mix.

My grandfather looked like Dwight Eisenhower, only softer. Every day he would learn a new word and go over it with me. He said that education was something no one could ever take from me. In my lap was a box holding the pigeon I'd caught under the bridge at Irvine. Because of the name and address band on one of its legs, my grandfather had been able to locate its owner, Charles Paul Heitzman, of Jefferson-town. When my grandfather called him, Mr. Heitzman was thankful that the bird had been found. It had been in a special race for young pigeons, being some 300 miles in distance and had gotten caught in one of our Kentucky storms that kept the frogs hushed through the night. Not a single pigeon of some 300 had made it home. The bad weather had continued for several days and the bird had given up hopes of home and resolved to survive, finding refuge among the bridge's common pigeons; a bridge, near my front yard, that spanned over the Kentucky River.

After some pleasant thoughts and conversation, we were on the outskirts of Jeffersontown and on a small drive that went over a creek and on to a private bridge having stonework with arched sides. Once over the bridge, a bricked driveway led to a sprawling estate that was set comfortably in the countryside. Driving by a porcelain statue of a hand-painted racing pigeon that was mounted atop a stone obelisk, the word "Heitzman" with bold letters reflected under it. The Impala soon parked in a circular driveway. There waiting was a small man of average build, about the same age as my grandfather, wearing a short-sleeved, white dress shirt and pale-colored pants with a small black belt that owned a tongue hanging several inches below its buckle. The man's white hair, though slightly messed, was trimmed and combed neatly back and over to one side. His dark framed eyes held in careful study. There was something serious and at the same time almost Santa Claus about the figure.

"I'm Charles Heitzman," spoke the man, giving my grandfather a firm handshake. The two men were much alike; respectful, unpretentious and genuinely warm. "There are no strangers in this world," spoke Heitzman, "Only friends we've yet to meet." In that handshake I somehow gained another grandfather.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Heitzman of Jeffersontown KY, who celebrated their Golden 50th wedding anniversary on January 25, 1970. They are the parents of one son, Charles, Jr, and three daughters, Mary Agnes, Bernice and Dorothy. They have fourteen grandchildren. This picture first appeared in the ARPN, February, 1970.

I handed Mr. Heitzman the box with the pigeon. He examined the bird, looking at the bands on its legs. "Come on and I'll show you Cedar Point," he said, turning and walking along a sidewalk that led toward the rear of his home. "Before you see my lofts, I want you to see my library."

We passed by a large bell mounted near the back door of Mr. Heitzman's tiled roof home. He explained that Agnes, his wife, would ring the bell when she wanted him to come in from the lofts to answer the phone or have a bite to eat. The walkway continued through a row of mature red cedars facing each other and up a hill to a tan block building with white awnings and nest boxes for wrens on each side of a door that owned a large metal "H" in its center. In front of the building to its left were trimmed hemlock hedges, and to the right were statues and head markers of four of Mr. Heitzman's deceased racing champions: "Heat Wave," "Hei Times," "Head Wind," and "Hurry Home." Close by, a clearing in the middle of a lawn facing an assemblage of some 20 racing lofts, was a silver sphere glistening in the sun. "What's that?" I asked.

"My beacon. It helps guide my birds in on a close race. They can spot it 20 miles out. Andy Devine was here last month. He asked that same question.

"Andy Devine?" asked my grandfather, rather curious. "The movie star," informed Mr. Heitzman. "he was Buck, the stagecoach driver in Stagecoach. John Wayne was Ringo. Andy said that John Ford directed that movie and that he's making another one with John Wayne and himself called The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. They're supposed to start shooting it this month."

A group of racers flew powerfully by, diving, twisting, and darting while their wings whistled. The purple martins in their many boxes close by cocked their heads, watching as well. A stranger in paradise? I stood there in wonder. Those pigeons on the Irvine bridge, that I lived near, could fly and do so many things in the sky, but these pigeons were brilliant, in control, toying with gravity, showing off among each other, and smiling all the while.

Mr. Heitzman looked at me as I watched the racers pass overhead. A few of the pigeons left the main flock on each pass and dropped from the air as they lowered their legs and changed their flight to land on a branch of a poplar tree. The tree dazzled with them.

"When Andy was about your age," Mr. Heitzman informed, "he had a cat that kept coming around his loft, killing his birds. Andy lived out in Arizona near a mining town and could get plenty of dynamite. When he trapped that cat, he and one of his friends tied four sticks of dynamite to it and lit the fuse and then took off running. It ran straight under Andy's pigeon loft, blew up the building, and killed every bird."

A giant black and white photo of a man with a long white mustache, standing in front of a two-story building, greeted us when we entered the library. Mr. Heitzman stood by a fireplace and identified the man in the photo as Paul Sion. Sion lived in Tourcoing, France. His pigeon loft was built above his home.

Mr. Heitzman asked that his leather bound guest book be signed. Inside it, among its names were Yul Brynner, actor; Carlo Napolitano, loft manager of H. M.; the Queen of England; and Rex Ellsworth, breeder of Swaps, the Kentucky Derby winner. "Rex and I share one rule: the apple never falls far from the tree. Swaps is down from Man O'War. From the best you get the best."

Covering all four walls and throughout the building were racing pigeon items as well as every book ever written on them. The books went on and on. Some being published in the 1860's. Along with the books were the leading magazines from nearly every country in the world, foremost being The American Racing Pigeon News, the monthly published in the USA and the The Racing Pigeon Bulletin, the oldest and leading weekly. Standing atop a desk was an old wicker basket. "My first Sions (pigeons) were shipped to me in that basket," spoke Mr. Heitzman.

"Who is Sion?" I asked.

"He was a man that was once a boy like you," answered Mr. Heitzman." When he was your age he visited a man named Wegge. From him, Sion got his start. That was back when the breed was just beginning. Paul Sion became the greatest flier in France, then, the world. When I began to make a little money, I wanted the best racing pigeons and sought him. Those birds have made me, and they've kept me alive."

I knew what my grandfather was thinking when Mr. Heitzman had spoken. The past week, he had shown a movie, The birdman of Alcatraz, starring Burt Lancaster, Karl Malden, Thelma Ritter, Neville Brand, Telly Savalas, and Edmond O'Brien. It was a touching story about a hardened inmate's life suddenly changing when he rescues a baby sparrow in a storm. My grandfather had talked to me about how the inmate had saved the bird and in return the bird had saved him.

"What business are you in?" asked my Grandfather.

"Bakery. My father came over from Germany and started the business. He spelled his name with two (h)s. The truck that once owned all he had is under my main racing loft. You can stand it on its end, and when you open it, its a closet."

In the library on one wall was a plaque from The National Pigeon Association naming Mr. Heitzman an "All American." There were over 100 silver and bronze trophies and plaques that Mr. Heitzman had on display. These were only his major awards.

There were also several Belgium made, wooden, box-like seven-day racing clocks and a metal, two bird, two-day racing clock that was made before the turn of the century. I saw many paintings of his champion racers, the mounted banded legs of his foundation birds that died many years ago, and two white loft coats embroidered with the words "Heitzman Lofts."

I saw plastic and aluminum tubular message carriers that had been used in WWII; a detailed pen and ink sketch of Mr. Heitzman's main racing loft; a wooden model of one of his breeding lofts, complete with its miniature dowel aviary; a maroon sweater sent to him from Tokyo, with the image of a racing pigeon sewn into it; a porcelain ashtray with the colored image of his famous racer, "Hei Pockets," crafted into it; many statues that were replicas of his famous fliers; and professional photographs of his birds as they flew. Among the photographs were scenes of his estate from the air, his birds in perfect stances, and incredibly detailed pedigrees done in Mr. Heitzman's masterful handwriting, with such exquisite penmanship, as if done by God's own scribe using a feather from the best racer. In one area was a completed card file written for every bird he had bred since 1919.

Mr. Heitzman stepped outside. "Come on," he urged, opening the door. "I'll show you around."

We began walking along the neatly mowed bluegrass lawn passing one breeding loft to our right as we went over a slope towards the main racing loft that was built high up off the ground. It owned green painted latticework around its base and white steps with white concrete urns leading up to its middle doweled and screened front door, possessing the words "Charles Paul Heitzman" in white against a black metal background. Just out from the eves of the loft along the front of its large and rectangular structure, Mr. Heitzman opened windows leading to tip doweled aviaries that owned landing boards. These were the airstrips for his winged thoroughbreds.

The place was magical. Many of the birds flew down from their individual box perches to go to the floor. They stretched their bodies, looking up, spreading their wings, all but speaking to Mr. Heitzman, expressing trust, saying, "We're hungry!"

Those birds were his babies.

Several of the birds were nearly solid red in color, actually maroon. Some of them were almost white, marked with two tan colored bars across their wings. Then a bird that was light grey marked with two wide black bars across its wing flew near. "That one is like the one I brought back to you," I commented.

"That color is called a 'blue bar,'" informed Mr. Heitzman. "Sion had a great racer colored like that named Napoleon. All pigeons are descended from that color from a bird that lived along cliffs called the wild blue rock dove. There's two color genes in pigeons, red and black. The black gene is recessive to the red. The pigeons colored with bars are recessive to those that have checks or other markings on their wings. A blue bar is recessive in its color and also in its markings, but when a blue bar mates with a blue bar, blue bar babies will always be produced. You see, when two recessives mate, that trait then becomes dominant. It wasn't finches that inspired Charles Darwin in his Origin of Species. It was pigeons. Darwin wrote a sonnet to them. I used to know it. He wanted a sense of how much variety existed with a single type of animal. At one time he had over 100 pigeons. When his daughter's cat got into his loft, he had the cat killed. He belonged to a prestigious pigeon club. A person had to be voted on by its members in order to be admitted. He wanted to show that a new species could be created from a common ancestor by the accumulation of small changes over generations. He believed that studying artificial selection of animals like pigeons would provide the evidence.

Mr. Heitzman's records were so complete that he could tell before two babies hatch, what colors they would be and everything about them. The most important thing to breed for is instinct. When a bird is found with that strong homing instinct and combined with condition, it will be a champion. Race horse people know and do the same thing.

Mr. Heitzman went over to one of his feed bins and lifted its cover and scooped out some mixed feed, spreading it inside a wooden, trough-like feed tray on the floor. The birds' beaks began pecking at individual seeds. There was a unison of pecking noises and heads bobbing with every bird hustling to gain a strategic position to eat. Each head was as quick as fingers racing in a typing class.

Mr. Heitzman went back out the door and down the steps with us following. We met an elderly man dressed in overalls, wearing a tilted blue and white striped engineer's cap. Mr. Heitzman introduced him as his full-time employed loft keeper. The man had been with Mr. Heitzman just like Herman had been with my grandfather. Mr. Heitzman asked that he grate a head of cabbage and meet us in the main stock loft. Walking on down over the hill towards a stand of woods along a creek, the stock loft appeared as though some tranquil home for the elves. It owned a round roof with a doweled aviary protruding from the front of it. The loft entered from the side, stepping through two doors. "The bird you caught will go in here," spoke Mr. Heitzman. "I already know who I will mate him to next year. I keep the males and females separated from July to February. I put them together on Valentine's day. Following nature is always best. I'm line breeding him back to Sion's Napoleon. It has been so long since a bird has been returned to me. When someone sees 'KY' on a bird's leg, he know its mine. I've had the KY bands since the end of the war. The American Racing Pigeon Union issues them solely to me. If one of my birds traps into another loft, I never hear about it. I suppose that's a compliment."

"My grandson is wanting to build a loft. Do you have any suggestions?" asked Grandfather.

"Lofts don't need to be big or heavy. My son flew pigeons in the Signal Corps during the war. Many of the birds I donated. They used portable lofts, and their birds stayed fine. Some of my favorite lofts in the back are from the war. Make your loft out of wood. You don't want concrete block, it will sweat. Moisture promotes sickness. Keep the loft off the ground. Make certain its well ventilated and face it to the south," Mr. Heitzman explained.

"How much do you get for a pair of pigeons?" asked Grandfather.

"A hundred dollars a pair for young birds. More for the old birds. If you all will come back next summer. I'll give you four youngsters. One out of the bird you returned. You'll never get better than that."

E. Lowell Robbins, Jr., 207 Longview Drive, Richmond, KY 40475;, shares this article with our readers.

Monday, June 13, 2011

AU 60 KY 60027

AU 60 KY 60027 Blue Pencil Hen bred and flown by Chas. Heitzman

100-150-330 miles as Y.B. 100-200 miles 1961. She is the mother of Heitzman's Purina Sweepstakes Winner 63064 Silver hen shown on page 60 of Heitzman's SION book, also many other race winners. She is bred from "56361" Blue Pencil Cock, son of "4" Blue, page 43 and "Helen 21078" 1st, 610 mile race. Mother of "60027" is "52456" Strawberry Mealy Hen from Dr. Anderson Pair "25" and "4" Strawberry Mealy Hen Line-bred to Paul Sion's "Le-Rousselet" France 28-517634 shown on page 23 of Heitzman's Sion book. "60027" is a sister to four Strawberry Mealy Cocks "61333", "63032", and "63470", also "3889" Strawberry Cock shown in breeding list featured in The American Racing Pigeon News November 1966 issue.

Picture taken from The American Racing Pigeon News
November 1966

Great Sion's of the past ...

Friday, May 13, 2011

France 28 E 516794

Chas. Heitzman imported "516794" direct from Paul Sion, Tourcoing loft. This Red Chequer Cock flown 400 miles and winning many prizes for Mons. Paul Sion.

Mated to 25 L 82104, and known as Chas. Heitzman's "C" pair shown in his Sion Mating list in 1932. Heitzman quoted, "This is one of my choicest Sion stock pairs." In those days, Heitzman was offering his Sion youngsters for $45.00 per pair.

Great Sion's of the past ...
Picture taken from Ad placed in The American Racing Pigeon News
Supplement December 1931

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Heaven Roosted There

With permission, A two-part true story of FATE

First published in the RP Digest, one reader wrote to the Editor:

There are pigeon stories, and then there are pigeon stories. "Heaven Roosted There" by No Sweat in your last issue is one of the finest I have ever read, and I have been reading the best literature, in and out of the pigeon game, for years.
No Sweat captures the rush and the passion of looking at pigeons as a child, but he does so much more. He evokes both the love of pigeons and the soul of growing up. His bridge of pigeons is another kid's old overall factory, or silo, or meat packing house, or condemned apartment house (at the top of which someone like Chas. Heitzman had the pigeons of a god).
Kudos to him for his writing. And thanks so much for running it.
Old Fret"

Hardly anyone noticed the pigeons on the bridge. That steel structure had dripped the colors of orange, blue, lime and silver but now it was cedar green. Sometimes I thought of it as though it were some kind of stretched steel dinosaur. And there were times, I suppose because of all those intricate interconnecting braces silhouetting against the sky, it seemed like a giant spider web. I'd been born near that bridge and had lived there all my life and on this day, my tenth birthday, well, heaven roosted there.

The railroad tracks that I was balancing on were just a short distance over the hill from the back of my little apartment. The tracks led under the bridge where there was this splintery telephone pole that was on a slope just up from the Kentucky River flowing in its liquid jade waters. That pole reminded me of Jesus' cross. Only there were boards up above that pole, a catwalk, running above the wires and insulators. Last week, at the base of the pole I had propped a board.

The bridge overhead didn't go very far before it ended and ran into the Main Street of my home town, Irvine, Kentucky. Hardly anyone had a TV and every Saturday night my grandfather, the owner of the theater, played a scary movie for the crowd. Tonight, his neon marquee advertised: "BRIDES OF DRACULA."

My mom was up the hill from me sitting high in her small chair at the entrance of the theater. She owned mysterious grey eyes and could look at you just like Ava Gardner. She always seemed happy and enjoyed talking to the customers and laughing with them while sitting in her glassed in ticket booth. I knew she was selling tickets for twenty five cents and that my grandfather was collecting them as the customers came through the door. Mom probably thought I was sitting where I always sat, in the middle seat of the front row. But if I wasn't there, she had to figure that I was asleep on our back porch.

I had been planning for a long time when I propped that board against the telephone pole. The flashlight I'd gotten for my birthday was tied off from my belt when I lunged up the board making a desperate grab, the tips of my fingers just reaching where they had to be. I had dreamed of doing what I was doing and now that I was in that dream it felt strange. If I tore my clothes or dropped the flashlight my father would surely find out. That, inevitably, would lead to a whipping with one of those leather belts that he had hanging down on the inside of the closet door in his bedroom.

My father was a strong man, an ex-Merchant Mariner. He looked like Robert Mitchum and ran a fruit stand on the street across from the theater. During the summers, every other Saturday night, like tonight, he would leave in his truck for Georgia. A few days later, he would return with crates of peaches or a load of melons and cantaloupes. When he was gone mom and I were very close, often listening to Billie Holiday records. But when dad returned things were always different, especially the love.

In the darkness I was silent. Once atop the pole I stood up, carefully balancing, stretching upwards into the hold-less air, my fingers barely reaching the edge of the catwalk. Pulling, I brought my body up and onto the rough boards and then rolled over on my back to rest. Looking into the darkness, I felt the vibrations of a truck as it passed overhead.

Turning on my flashlight, I crouched along the catwalk towards the river. Because of the slope of the ground below, each step was a gain in height. I slowly continued until I reached a massive concrete pillar that rose sixty feet above the river's edge. I paused to study the long shadow of the boat dock on the other side of the river. If I fell, well, my life was over. A bullfrog moaned in the distance and in that still moment I smelled the faint smell of a pigeon; a light and powdery smell that sent a strange satisfaction into me the same way a delicate rose does, only different.

Death so close for the sake of what?

... A pigeon.

The pigeons on that bridge had been taunting my soul for as long as I could remember. When my parents were gone I often found my face pressed against their end bedroom window. To get to that window you had to walk past that closet with the belts and past that bed where I was made to lay on my stomach when being whipped. I'd pull back those long and dark curtains, smelling and seeing the thick dust of the sills, and gaze out onto Main Street with its turn of the century square brick buildings. Off to the left was the bridge. The pigeons were always there..

I turned on my light and shined it out along the long structural ribs of the bridge, the catwalk had stopped at the pillars and from there on out there were no holds. Such a vacuous feeling. I spotted two pigeons forever uncatchable. I turned my light back off and climbed back onto the catwalk and stopped at the first metal brace angling upward and out. I shined my light and there, in a small nook, looking into my light was a pigeon: light grey in color, owning two black stripes across its wings; its neck such a jewel of blue, purple, green and its eyes hypnotized rubies. The evening breeze began moving through the tops of the sycamores below the catwalk and for a moment my mind forgot about falling and thought only of the pigeon. I leaned out onto the brace and began hugging, inching upwards, keeping my head cocked while holding the light. When at last I got within grabbing distance, I stopped.

It happened as quick as the thought and just as true, the bird being caught. All those years of looking and now this. Holding tight to the pigeon's wings I shimmied back down to the catwalk. Getting better control of the bird, I was intrigued to see that the bird owned a seamless aluminum band on each leg. One band read, "AU 60 KY 6006." And the other, "CHAS HEITZMAN, JEFFERSONTOWN KY."

What is fate? What is it when two lives meet in a dream?

I found myself running back on the tracks. I stopped and my Converse cut up the trail through the kudzu to run up the sidewalk and enter past my grandfather and go into the ticket booth to show mom my pigeon. A small fan was blowing on her face when she turned and looked at me. I was the kind of boy that would always be lonely. But on this night, I owned a little of heaven. Mom smiled and grandfather did, too.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


37-451915 Gris Male bred by Paul Sion, one of his and Robert Sion's greatest ACE producers. Bred from 830176-34 Roux Cock and 458917. 830176 grand son of "ROUGE MACOT" Paul Sion's Ace of Aces.

Parkwood Lofts, Bellflower, California brought in an outstanding draft of GRIS SION's which were offered in the mid 1960's. The seven reference birds included 37-451915, maybe the best of the day.

Picture taken from Racing Pigeon International
December 1965

Great Sion's of the past ...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

La Female Gris

France 38 E 339343 Silver Female, Bred by Paul Sion

Mons. Sion Wrote: - "She is a daughter of a grey (Silver) 1935, bred from my famous "Rouge Macot" 327684-27. The Greatest Champion I ever raised in my long career." 339343 is mother of Heitzman's AU 41 KY 4157 R.C.C. and AU 41 KY 4283 Silver.

Great Sion's of the past ...
Picture taken from Ad in The A.R.P. News Year Book 1942

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Had Two

AU 53 KY 53242 B.C. Wft Sion Hen, bred and flown by Chas. Heitzman. 100-500 as Y.B. 2nd Dipl. 500 found in loft 2nd AM early with another arrival. She is a SION whose grand-parents are also 500 mile young birds or 500 mile winners. Sire "51110" B.C.C. son of "49525" R.C.C. 500 as Y.B. and "Hei-Sion" "547" 1st 500-'50 Day of Toss. Dam: "51102" R.C. Hen from "50302" R.C.C. Wft. and "Hei-Pure" "AU 48 OKY 112" B.C.H. 1st 500 Y.B. Race 1948. "50302" full brother to "high-Fly" 500 Y.B. 1949.

Great Sion's of the past ...
Picture taken from Ad in The American Racing Pigeon News
November 1953

Sunday, January 16, 2011

60318 Blue Chequer Cock

"60318" Bred by Chas. Heitzman

"60318" son of "55011" and FRANCE 51-1007197 Blue, Bred by Mons. Robert Sion and shown in Heitzman's SION book on page 30. "55011" is full brother to Sam Marshall's "French Cock 55010" from R. Sion's FRANCE 50-217749 Silver Cock.

Picture taken from The American Racing Pigeon News
November 1966

Great Sion's of the past ...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hurry Home

AU 48 OKY 182 Dark Chq Hen, Sion-Stassart, Bred and flown by Chas. Heitzman. Flown 100-200-313 Y.B., 500 miles as Yearling, 500 miles - 1950 Day of Toss. 500 miles - 1951, 500 miles - 1952, 1st 500 miles in 1953 Winning Average Speed for the Heitzman loft. Bred from 47-1024 R.C.C. Sion and 734 D.C.H. Stassart daughter of "Imfi" "40136" 1st 400 Y.B. and "4184" R.C.H. 1st Dipl. 500 Mile Race. "1024" son of 41-4346 R.C.C. 500-600 miles Day of Toss also 1000 Miles, Heitzman's best Old Sion Blood.

Great Sion's of the past ...
Picture taken from Heitzman Ad in The American Racing Pigeon News
November 1953