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The Van Loon/Vic Miller Families

In approximately 2010, I made a significant change to my breeding program by selling out of my Horemans family. There were a lot of reasons for this change, but looking back at it, the single biggest reason was that I had come to realize that I did not have the time or the desire to participate in the club races anymore. This being the case, my options would thereby be limited to competing in the one loft races and, if this were the case, then I would need a very different type of pigeon from the Horemans that I owned at the time. I thought about this for quite some time, and decided that I needed to develop a general set of criteria to build these pigeons around. Consequently, I settled on the following points:

1. The pigeons needed to be Janssen based.
2. They needed to be tough and be able to come home on the tough days.
3. They needed to be predominantly yellow eyed.
4. They needed to be at their best from 300 to 600 miles.

As he was with the Horemans, Ed Lorenz was a big help in providing me with many of the pigeons I finally settled on. As most of you probably know, Ed made a very successful pigeon career out of the Snowbird Race during the 80’s and 90’s. As a handler for the Snowbird race, Ed received a 100 pigeons each year from some of the top lofts in the country and, as a result, he had top quality pigeons from almost every family imaginable. After Ed quit racing in 2003, I had the good fortune to have access to these pigeons, first in the form of the Horemans and then later in the form of the Van Loon and Vic Miller pigeons, as well as, a few other individual pigeons from other sources that he had accumulated over the years.

My story with these current pigeons really began in about 2007, when I was still purchasing my Horemans stock. It happened that Ed showed me an excellent cock from his race team that had no Horemans in it at all. However, at that time, I was interested in buying a particular Horemans cock that I knew wasn’t going to be cheap, so I passed up the cock he was showing me with the idea that I would try to buy him on the next trip. Unfortunately, I somehow forgot all about this pigeon and that has proven over and over again to have been a devastating mistake.

SilverStreak

"The Survivor Cock" - One of the greatest pigeons I ever owned and a cornerstone of my current breeding program. He was the father of the "Feather Leg" and the "Golden Hen"

During a 2010 visit to Ed's loft, he asked me to grade approximately 100 youngsters from that year's breeding.  At that time, I was at a crossroads as to where my pigeon career was headed.  I had just started flying the one loft races, and I could see that the Horemans were not the right pigeons for that job, but I had put a lot of work into them and the idea of starting over with another set of pigeons was pretty daunting.  Because of this, and at the same time, I was also contemplating the idea of walking away from the sport altogether and, in fact, I had even gone as far as discussed this idea with my partner.

While grading the 100 or so youngsters for Ed, I found 12 that I thought were excellent.  Had I been more certain about future in the sport, I might have worked out a deal to buy these pigeons that day since they tended to meet my general criteria mentioned above. However, the fact of the matter was that until I had clarified my place in the sport, I wasn't going to undertake another project.

Even in remotely considering the purchase of these pigeons, I came to another realization. In order to afford any other pigeons I was going to have to sell the Horemans, and I would have to do this during a bad economy and a rapidly shrinking market. Fortunately, I also realized that I would pretty much have to sell the Horemans even if I decided to quit the sport, so it was at that moment that I realized that no matter what I did, I was going to have to sell the Horemans!

When I had finished grading Ed’s pigeons, I took the list of 12 pigeons back into his house so that he could look these pigeons up in his record book.  During this process he kept saying, “And this is another one out of the cock you liked.”  I was hot and tired and not really paying attention until he said this for about the third time.  Then I asked, “What cock I liked?”  Well, five minutes later, we were out in the back yard looking at the cock from the race team that I had liked several years earlier.  To this day, I still cannot believe I actually forgot about this pigeon! 

Survivor Cock

Eye of the "Survivor Cock"

This was probably something of a turning point for me because I couldn’t let this cock go a second time regardless of whether I was still indecisive about my future in the sport or not, so I bought this pigeon on the spot. As it turned out, his father was from the "Super 73" Van Loon bloodlines and his mother was a Waterhouse Bekaert named “The Survivor Hen”. She earned this name during a club event where participating fanciers each entered one pigeon into what was called the "Survivor Series". These pigeons had to fly every race for the entire season and they were judged based on their average speed over these races. Ed entered this seven year old hen and she won the competition by a considerable period of time. Since she earned the name the "Survivor Hen", by default, her son became the "Survivor Cock".

As it turned out, all 12 youngsters that I had selected for Ed were out of two pairs of pigeons. Because I bought the "Survivor Cock", I never bought any of his youngsters and, as a result, I don't remember how he was mated at the time. The other pair was an inbred Vic Miller cock, 4698, which was mated to a granddaughter of Ed’s super Horemans racing cock, 737.

On the long drive home from that trip I kept thinking, “Now that I own this 'Survivor Cock', I can’t really quit the sport. So what am I going to do now?” I thought about jumping from the car as it sped down the highway as an easy out, but instead, I spent the rest of the trip developing the plan that I am still basically following today. Oddly, part of that plan included buying five of the six youngsters from 4698 and the 737 hen. This made me feel really stupid because on the one hand I was about to sell my Horemans family only to replace them with five pigeons that were half Horemans.

However, with the exception of the 737 line, Ed's Horemans were all pearl eyed. I had owned several yellow eyed sisters to this 737 hen, but they had not bred well with the other Horemans lines, so eventually I sold them. I never thought this was the fault of the 737 line, but more the fact that Ed had been mating his other lines pearl eye to pearl eye for many generations, and after a while they seemed to reject the yellow eyes of the 737 line and the youngsters were rarely any good.

Truth be told, I had always liked the 737 line the best, but as the minority in my loft, they could be moved out the easiest, so out they went. Now like ships passing in the night, the pearl eyed lines were on their way out of the loft and a diluted version of the yellow eyed line was on its way back into the loft. Strange how things happen!

Now that the reader has some idea of how I got started with this new group of pigeons, let’s skip back a couple of generations their heritage. In 1993, Bill Traw bred a young cock known simply as the brother to the "Robbie Cock". He sent this cock to the Snowbird Race to be flown by Ed Lorenz. I believe the actual "Robbie Cock" was flown in the same race by Robbie Robinson, which I would gess is how this cock got its name. Both cocks were out of “Bill’s Magic”, which was a direct son of the famous Super 73. The mother to these two cocks was Bill's excellent Pauw - Bekaert hen, known as the “Strawberry Hen.” Bill’s Magic and the Strawberry Hen were also known as the Traw hit pair. The brother of the Robbie Cock placed on the front page of the results sheet in that year’s Snowbird race, and it went on to have a very good breeding career as well.

Three years later, Vic Miller entered a replacement hen into the Snowbird Race for a pigeon that was eaten by a hawk. Although still very young when the race rolled around, this replacement pigeon, 96 IHC 2476, placed very high in the Snowbird race (around 4th as I remember it) and in the Snowbird Classic (around 30th). Very few pigeons have every placed well in both races. As a result of these placings, she won a significant amount of money and later she went on to have an excellent breeding career, most notably when mated to the brother of the Robbie Cock.

Ed had the "brother to the Robbie Cock" mated to the "2476 Hen" for the last two or three years he was racing, so some of the children got a limited chance to race. The oldest of these was the "White Tail Cock", which was Ed’s clock pigeon three years straight at the 600 mile station. I never owned this pigeon, but I owned the two best brothers in 1105, which was flown to the 600 mile station as a yearling, and the “02 Cock”, which flew the 2002 young bird series and was Ed's first clock bird twice.

02 Cock

The '02 Cock - Father to the top cock 1094

I bought the “02 Cock” at about the same time I bought five of the six youngsters out of "4698 Cock "and the "737 Hen". As it turned out, the "brother to the Robbie Cock" and his son, the "02 Cock", went infertile at nine years of age. However, the "White Tail" and "1105" bred until they were both 12 years old. During the first two years I owned the “02 Cock”, he bred me five excellent children with the daughter of the "Survivor Cock", the "Golden Hen", but over time I sold all but one of them, 1094, which was the father to a day bird in South Africa and has otherwise been a very consistent breeder for me.

Golden Hen

The Golden Hen - Daughter to the Suvivor cock, Mother to the Utah Hen, 1094, 1065, 2131, 2156, Golden Z to name a few

In his second fertile year (2012), when mated to a full sister to 1094, the “02 Cock" bred me an inbred hens named the “No Band Hen” because, you guested it, she had no band. This hen was mated to my excellent Zoontjens breeding cock “WACKO”, and the two of them were ultimately responsible for placing four pigeons (including two in the money) in the top 800 of this year's South African race.

In 2013, “Wacko" and the “No Band Hen” produced me two excellent pigeons. The hen of the two, the Mega Hen, which was on the drop at the 200 in the Plymouth Peak Challenge and managed a very tough return on a smash 300 mile race in which 300 pigeons were lost. Down 300 pigeons, only 21 were able to make it home over the second and third days and, three, including the Mega Hen, were from my Vic Miller Pigeons.

Even before her daughter had flown a race, I had sent the “No Band Hen” to a friend of mine in Canada. Consequently, the following year while visiting my partner, I was pleased to learn that the cock from this pair, which was supposed to have been raced, had escaped the young bird section into another section, and went unnoticed. I brought this cock back to my loft where he just finished up an excellent first year of breeding, and he currently has children in both the Plymouth Peak Challenge and the South African race.

Mega Hen

"Mega Hen" - on the first drop at 200 mile Plymouth Peak Challenge, and one of only 21 second or third day pigeons to come home from a 300 mile race where 300 of 500 pigeons were lost; she has already been a top breeder

Eye of the "Mega Hen"

Unfortunately, I didn’t know about the existence of 1105 until he was 11 years old.  How this was the case, I am not quite sure because his blood is in virtually every pigeon I own. Since Ed never showed me the pigeon, I always assumed that it was either dead or had been sold. As mentioned earlier, Ed flew this pigeon through 600 miles where he was a consistent but average performer.  Ed certainly didn’t need any more breeders and, as a matter of practice, he would never have stocked this pigeon based on its race record.  However, 1105 was just one of those pigeons that left anyone handling him with little doubt as to his breeding ability.

1105 Foundation Cock

01 FVC 1105 - Foundation Cock to the Van Loon/Vic Miller Pigeons

1105 Eye

Eye of 01 FVC 1105

Unfortunately for 1105, Ed quit racing right after stocking him, so he probably didn't breed 15 pigeons in his entire breeding career, but two of those children, 04 FVC 4698 (for Ed) and 05 FVC 292 (for me), proved themselves to be quite prolific. Because Ed did not race the children of 1105 and I could not race his grandchildren, these pigeons ultimately went a couple of generations without racing. In lesser situations, this most likely would have posed a problem for the generations going forward, but fortunately that has not proved to be the case with these pigeons.

When 1105 first arrived at my loft, he was 12 years old and because he had not been bred in at least the previous season, I knew that there was a very good chance he might not breed at all. This was compounded by that oddity that while he was the father and grandfather to virtually all of the non- Zoontjens pigeons in my loft, he really didn't seem to match up that well with many of my hens. In fact, the hen he matched best happened to be his super breeding daughter 292. This led to two concerns. First, their children would be double inbreds, and second, I did not want to take the chance of messing up a season with 292 by mating her to a pigeon that I wasn't even sure was still fertile. Finally, I decided that 1105 was worth the risk, so I went ahead with this plan and bred three excellent pigeons, two hens and a cock.

Over the years, I have bred about 10 double inbred pigeons with limited success, but these three youngsters have already had a giant impact on my loft. In his two years of breeding, the inbred son of these pigeons has bred right at the top. This year, he was mated to the "Mega Hen" to form what I consider to be the top pair in the loft this year. They have children in Utah and potentially South Africa assuming they can ever be shipped to that country. The final two are at the very top of this year's youngsters and both will easily make the breeding loft. I have very little doubt that we will hear more about them down the road.

Double inbred cock

Double Inbred Son of 1105 and 292

I did not get to use the older double inbred hen until the last round last year. In that round, she produced an excellent hen that has already bred very well for me this year. She has a daughter in the San Diego Classic and she is currently mated to a cock that I will get to shortly named "Bugsy".

Double inbred hen

Double inbred daughter of 1105 and 292

You might remember from earlier in this article that 04 FVC 4698 was the father to the original children that I bought from Ed.  Of the original five that I purchase from Ed, three have bred winners at 300 miles, and I am currently using two of them in the stock loft.  These two pigeons are known as the “Yellow Eye” and the “Pearl Eye” and both have bred winners as well as a number of good stock pigeons.  The "Yellow Eye" is responsible for such pigeons as “The Utah Hen” and “Biggie Smalls”. 

Pearl Eye

The "Pearl Eye" - Father to 300 mile Plymouth Peak Pro Challenge winner, and 7th place Pro Challenge average speed winner

Yellow Eye

The "Yellow Eye" - Father to the Utah Hen

In my first year of competing in the Plymouth Peak Challenge, along with many others, I got wacked pretty good on the first race.  I might even go as far as to say that I had the worst race of anyone competing, and my entries were reduced to five pigeons.  Those that came home were late and, as it had been a very hot day, they were undoubtedly pretty tired.  As with other pigeons in other years, I expected the next week to be the end of my participation in that race. On the second race, while they didn’t get lost, they were still late and were on the wing for quite some time.  At first, I was embarrassed by their results, but as the weeks went on and I didn’t lose any of these pigeons, I started to become impressed with their toughness.  Finally, on the last race in a series filled with losses, four of the five finished on the first page, with all five making it back, and the “Utah Hen” finishing 23 seconds off the win. Four of the five were Van Loon/Vic Miller pigeons.  Like her mother, the “Golden Hen” (daughter of the "Survivor Cock"), the Utah hen has been a magnificent breeder and, in two years of breeding (last year with 4689 and this year with "Biggie Smalls"), she has already pretty much had a breeding career. 

Utah Hen

Utah Hen

"Utah Hen" - 11th, 2012 - Plymouth Peak Challenge 300 mi., Top Breeder

The Pearl Eye and the “Feather Foot Hen” (Daughter of the Survivor Cock and 292), bred the big money winner the "Quiet Hen”, “The Borg 7 of 9”, and “Bugsy”.   The "Quiet Hen" was equal first on a three bird drop at 300 miles and then placed 7th in the overall average speed at the Plymouth Peak Challenge.  As she went through a very tough series, I did not breed her until the third round, and even then it was mostly to get her to go through a good molt. As it happened, I had to make some adjustments in several other matings and this left the "Yellow Eye" available to breed, and as they made a very nice mating, I put them together to produce a very nice young hen that will likely make the breeding loft.

1108

"Feather Leg" - Top Breeding Hen - Mother to several Plymouth Peak Challenge 300 mile winners

 

1108

Eye of Feather Leg

The "Borg 7 of 9" is a beautiful hen. She wasn't old enough to breed with the other pigeons in the first or second round, but I wanted to get her started breeding this year, so I mated her up to a son of the double inbred cock and the old Horemans hen, and they bred a very nice cock that I am looking at for stock. I call her the "Borg 7 of 9" (Borg for short) because the splashing on her head makes her look like the Star Trek character "Borg 7 of 9" and the last numbers of her band number are 79. I would venture to guess that the Borg hen has a significant future ahead of her.

"Bugsy" is an excellent cock that thinks he is a tough guy, hence the name. He has proven to be a very consistent breeder and reminds me of 1094 in that respect. He has an excellent son in the young bird loft and a sister in the San Diego Classic race. His career is really just getting started, and because of his bloodlines, he is an important pigeon to the future of the Vic Miller side of the family.

3014

"Bugsy" - Son of the Hit Pair (Pearl Eye and Feather Leg)

3089

Eye of Bugsy

About the time I bought the original five Vic Miller/ Horemans cocks from Ed, I also bought 292, which is the inbred daughter of 1105.  She is kind of an average pigeon in the hand, but she has bred me many good pigeons over the last four or five years. She is now ten years old and for the last two years she has generally only had one fertile egg per round, which has made it more difficult to put her on some of the better cocks. As a result, I moved her into the common section with an untested brother to the Utah hen. I really wasn't even sure she would breed this year, but I got lucky and she had two fertile eggs in the second round, and both youngsters, a cock and a hen, are excellent. In fact, the hen is almost identical to her mother, so maybe I will have a replacement for this excellent breeding hen! Her children include, but are certainly not limited to, “The Feather Leg”, 1190, and “Biggie Smalls”, all mainstays in the loft, and of course her two children from this year's mating, which rate right at the top of the loft.

05 FVC 292 - Daughter and granddaughter to Vic Miller's big Snowbird money winner 96 IHC 2476 when mated to 01 FVC 1105.

 

292

"05 FVC 292" - Inbred daughter of 2476 -Top Breeding Hen and mother to 1108, 1090 and Biggie Smalls

The "Feather Leg" has bred winners with two different cocks, the brother to the famous Zoontjens cock "Teletekst" and the "Pearl Eye".  The daughter of the brother to Teletekst and the Feather Leg was one of the other hens that came in the second day on the 300 mile smash when 300 pigeons were lost.   I didn’t have a chance to breed out of her last year, but she was mated to one of the excellent inbred Zoontjens son to Wacko and she had an excellent breeding year.  Two of her youngsters went to the Plymouth Peak Challenge and two to South Africa (assuming they ever get shipped) and I have a son from the third round for stock.  I have already covered the children of the "Pearl Eye" and the "Feather Leg".

3014

13 Book 3014 - Another daughter of The Feather Leg. Like the Mega Hen, this hen was one of 21 second or third day pigeons to ever come back from the 300 mile race where 300 of 500 pigeons were lost.

At the same time that I bought 1105, I also bought his inbred son, 4698. He was a full brother to 292 and he was the father to the five original cocks. He was 10 years old at the time and I was not totally sure that he was going to breed, but I took a chance and mated him to the "Utah Hen". He actually reeled off six straight youngsters, of which I stocked a cock and two hens. Like 1105 a very high percentage of the breeding loft relates back to this cock, including the "Pearl Eye" and the "Yellow Eye". Like his father 1105, this cock deserves more than a single paragraph, but again he has likely only bred 15 pigeons in his entire breeding career. All I can say is that on a percentage basis, this cock has bred every bit as good as either 1105 or 292.

04 FVC 4698

Eye of the 04 FVC 4698 - Inbred Vic Miller Cock, which Ed calls the very best of the Vic Miller pigeons he ever owned.

As the only direct pigeon left out of the “02 Cock”, 1094 deserves a place in this story. His mother is the "Golden Hen" and his grandfather from that side is the "Survivor Cock". 1094 much more resembles a Van Loons than the Vic Miller pigeons, and this is in great part due to the fact that he has Van Loon on both sides of the family through the "brother to the Robie cock" and the "Survivor Cock" which, as mentioned earlier, both go back to Bill Traw's Van Loon cock, “Bill’s Magic”.

In 2013, 1094 had a great breeding season with the sister to the SA Cock. As a guest speaker in that year's AU Convention, I had promised to send five pigeons to be auctioned at this event. A friend of mine wanted to buy some pigeons from me, but because pigeons usually go cheaper at these auctions, I told him that I would bid on these pigeons in his behalf. Unfortunately, this agreement took place well before this event was scheduled to take place. As it turned out, that particular year I had mated the Zoontjens sister to the SA cock to 1094 and they had bred very well together. About the time I agreed to send the five youngsters to the convention, I was sending what I knew was going to be a super second round cock from 1094 to South Africa. At that point, the third round was just finishing up, and because it gets hot here, the third round often doesn't develop as quickly, so I had no real read on the pigeons from the third round at that point. Again, before I could get any real read on the third round, I had to make a commitment to the convention organizers on band numbers and at least one of those pigeons was a young hen out of 1094. Pretty much, from that moment forward, this pigeon did nothing but continue to develop, and probably two weeks later, I pretty much already knew I had made a big mistake. I couldn't back out, and the pigeon would most likely still wind up going to a friend of mine, but this still meant that one of these two great pigeons was in South Africa and the other was going to the AU Convention. As the convention drew closer, and my friend and I agreed on the maximum limits he was willing to spend on bidding, I kept writing him back to encourage him to be willing to raise the price on this pigeon. It didn't matter to me because the money was going to the convention, but I wanted to give him every opportunity to own this hen. As he was focusing on five pigeons, and I was really only interested in the one, I told him that if the pigeon went over his bid amount I was going to try and buy it. Ultimately, he got the pigeon and, while I was happy for him, I was disappointed because now I didn't have either pigeon.

As it turned out her brother that went to South Africa, was ultimately a day bird, and because I had lost out on the sister and the brother was now a proven pigeon, I went out of my way to buy it back. As things go, when you want a pigeon back in a bid situation, somebody else always seems to want the pigeon just as bad and that was the case here, because at the live auction the price I had to pay was double the average. to make matters worse, this was the first year that South Africa would not allow the auction pigeons to leave the country. Two years later, I still do not have that cock in my possession, but I have been assured that it will be here in August. Based on the Zoontjens SA cock that I bought from South Africa several years back, even when I have this pigeon back, it will still need to go through several molts before it is right again.

This year, 1094 had another very big breeding season and should be well represented in both Utah and South Africa. However, at this point, there is now a question about South Africa not accepting pigeons for this year's race, so again, his bad luck continues as his youngsters may not get to go to the race, which would be disappointing. At the same time, however, if they do not go to the race, then I should get them back, which will help me in the stock loft. Consequently, to date and because of his bad luck, 1094 does not have any offspring in the stock loft, and that is unfortunate because he has been a very consistent breeder. I can only hope that this will change.

In closing, I want to say that it is enjoyable to me that these pigeons are based on families of pigeons that were bandied about, such as Van Der Flaes and Van Loon, when I first started in the sport so many years ago. I have put a great deal of work into these pigeons over the last five years, and virtually all of it has been based around the principles of genetic compatibility that I have been developing over years. Probably a lot of what I have accomplished would not have been possible had I not stumbled into Wal Zoontjens family of pigeons. They are clearly not as tough as the Vic Miller pigeons but they are faster and both families are highly compatible, which of course is the basis to genetic compatibility. I have experienced varying levels of genetic compatibility with other pigeons over time, but for these to have come together in the manner that they have is truly extraordinary! I cannot take credit for the fact that this level of compatibility exists, but I can take credit for discerning which pigeons from several very general groups of pigeons this compatibility came from and then exploiting it.

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