Mike Tyson’s Surprising First Love

Mike Tyson Set to Do Animal Planet Show on Pigeon-Raising.

Hobbies and first loves don’t always match the public personalities we assign to celebrities. Word’s out now that former crunching heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson is now getting ready to do a series of shows for the Animal Planet TV network on his first love interest, the art of pigeon-raising.

Tyson strongly disclaims that his childhood investment in pigeons was ever a hobby. ‘This ain’t no hobby,” Tyson protested yesterday  at the Television Critics Association’s winter meeting. ”It’s a cultural thing.”

Growing up in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood, Mike Tyson first became interested in the ubiquitous city-bird cave dwellers through his daily contact with the birds that swarmed around his apartment building. As an ancient pigeon-watcher myself, I was impressed to learn of Mike’s early ability to appreciate the individual differences that separate one pigeon from another. His comparisons of pigeons to people were “right on” in the Internet article I read a few moments ago. And they were hardly befitting the image of a man we all once saw as a general human bone crusher who viewed all other boxers as simply vertical human beings awaiting their deliverance by force to a horizontal plane.

Here’s the article link: http://msn.foxsports.com/boxing/story/Mike-Tyson-shares-love-of-pigeons-in-new-Animal-Planet-show-010611

Tyson says he’s looking for  couple of “dominant personalities” among his new pool of pigeons. He wants to breed his new personal group from their strength, I suppose. I’d like to know more about Tyson means here. Are the two dominant ones simply another way of saying that he will tae the last male and female standing – and build from there?

a red-eyed handsome man

I personally never got into raising any birds beyond parakeets as a kid, but I became very aware of the individual birds that lived in the various parts of Houston that I visited on a fairly regular basis. It took no special skill. You simply had to see and recall what was all around you.

From what I saw, Mike Tyson is right. Pigeons are much like people in their differences from each other. They differ in size, color, and personality. Only certain archetypical behaviors and traits unite them as one discernible specifies. In that regard, that back and forth, herky-jerky head movement is simply a biological pattern that pigeons share with all gait-walking avian creatures. Hopping birds neither have the head bop nor do they need it.

Houston pigeons (and I’m presuming here that our local varieties are not too different from those that live in New Orleans, for example) tend to be homebodies. They hang around certain limited areas of town, leaving other, more distant spaces to other families, broods, and or gangs.

Back in the 1950-ish times of multiple Prince’s Drive In locations around town, we had a few distinct birds working for the crumbs that fell (or were thrown from) car trays at each separate locations. Over time, I became convinced that the birds working Prince’s on SOuth Main at OST came to recognize my ’51 Olds as one of those cars that spilled or discarded food with great abundance. I seemed to draw a crowd as quickly as I got there.

And when I got there, there they would be: “Mr. Chocolate Wing” and “Miss Vanilla Head” (among others) would bop out there to greet me and start that familiar cooing sound – their endless cry for food. Now where do they go, now that we’ve boarded up those old easy food stops?

Easy answers: The birds go wherever we go. Pigeons now patrol our new fast food joints and grocery stores, living in those convenient crawl spaces that we have built into our freeway system for their convenience.

But are the birds a potential health hazard? Yes, but probably no more so now than ever, and certainly not as dangerous as horses once were when dried horse manure from dirt streets floated into all our lungs.

One thing you don’t want to do is live too close to a pigeon roost. When I worked for Tulane University a few thousand years ago, a flock of pigeons moved into my apartment building and set up a nest right outside my bedroom window. Before I even knew what had hit me, I was struck with an infestation of pigeon mites that were hell to feel as they crawled all over my body and even harder to exterminate. Getting the birds to go away and stay away was job one for the relief of all residents in the building.

Almost needless to say, any lingering childhood desires of my own to raise pigeons died completely in New Orleans.

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