It is with a heavy heart that I report to the pigeon community the passing of Dan Hinds - a father, husband, friend, and legend in the sport of racing pigeons.
Dan was born in
Hollywood, California in May of 1927, and passed away Dec. 2009 at the age
Everyone that came into contact with Dan always felt that when they were done talking to him they received the whole story and the truth. Dan was not one to dance around a question or facts. If you asked him if your birds were doing well in his loft he would tell you the truth. This was not because he was trying to be harsh, but simply because he loved the sport of racing pigeons, and felt the truth was the only way he, and the rest of us, could better ourselves and learn. If a flyer wanted to buy a pigeon from him, and Dan knew the bird had never produced anything for him he would say so, even if it meant the flyer not buying anything. He felt if the bird was not good for him then he did not want to mislead someone who would not only spend their hard earned money, but waste time breeding a bird that would not make the flyer better.
Dan was a student of the sport as well as a teacher and a true purest. He understood, studied, and taught the mechanics of the pigeon wing, throat, eye, supple muscle, back, vent, conformation soft feather, and pulling the beak to see vitality etc. He knew every detail of racing down to training, feed, vitamins, loft design, etc.
Dan was 12 when he got his first pigeons, and there was no looking back. He was an accomplished club concourse, and federation officer, and California state judge. Dan also owned a successful pigeon convoy truck for many years in California giving him yet another understanding of what pigeons go through from race point to home.
My father and mentor Maurice Schoors described his lifelong friend Dan as a fine chef of racing pigeons not because he ate them although sometimes he threatened to. This was his description of Dan because he had “the recipe” for bringing a bird and team of birds into form at just the right time for just the right race. He was Deadly at futurity and money races because he would plan all year long for that one day, months before it happened; slowly planning for what birds, what kind and how much training needed, and just as important when to leave the birds alone. This “recipe “ came to a boil days before the big race, and Dan could tell you with amazing accuracy which birds would be home, and believe it or not, most times in what order. Dan was impressed with repeat results, not one time wins, or fancy pedigrees. Being a southern California multiple FVC Snow Bird winner, Dan was sent some of the finest, most expensive birds from all around the world for him to handle. He did not look at the pedigree or the name of who sent it, but rather the bird, its athletic promises, and physical attributes. Dan was a generous sportsman. If a flyer had a bird placed in his loft for a major race, which often would produce a winning prize of 10k 20k 30k, and the breeder asked for it back after the race Dan would say “come get it”, with no hesitation.
The sport of racing pigeons has taken a blow with Dan’s passing. I am privileged to have known Dan, his wife Martha, and children Robin and Mickey my entire life. The sport and its members have embraced their family since Dan passed. There are many things to learn from a man this accomplished in our sport. I would suggest not the obvious of how to be a winner (train, feed, make money, etc.) I suggest that we emulate how Dan helped the people, and the hobby instead. Lets all direct our efforts to grow the sport unselfishly, to give to the sport and its members, to educate and help the beginner or the flyer who has never enjoyed being on top of the race sheet. Give youngsters off your best birds to someone, allowing them feel the excitement of winning a race for the first time. Donate birds to your local club and combine picnics. If a flyer asks you how to do something tell him how, and what methods have worked best for you. Take a new flyer to your favorite and most successful training spots. Let a beginner win and be the first to congratulate him/her. This makes us all better and promotes the sport for future generations. This was Dan’s path in life; we can all honor him by walking in his shoes in these ways to better the sport he loved so much.
Having flown with the recently passed Jay Robbin Sparrow in the MTZ and the OHC, I can fervently attest that Jay was just “not another flyer”, but a Champion in every sense and meaning of the term.
Like fellow MTZ Member, the late Hank Vernazza, Jay possessed what can best be described as an amazing magnitude of simplicity coupled with an absolutely incredible will. Very, very, very few possess this combination which seeming verges the oxymoron.
As a Champion, Jay not only possessed the will to win with the concomitant skills of observation and fox like craftiness that such champions possess, but the desire to live. And, I say AND, a family as well as a network of friends who supported his efforts, wanted him to win, and helped him along his life’s path. They provided the net that he needed to not only survive, and to race, but to evolve as a pigeon racer. And as President Manny said to evolve to the greatest honor of all, one we all seek, to be known as “a threat in the long ones”. Jay won the six, he won the five and it all started with winning the four.
When Jay started flying, he was not the Champion that he was when he left this world. His introduction to pigeons was with rollers after he was involved in a nearly fatal automobile accident at age 19. No one thought that Jay would make it. He came home from the hospital very depressed, physically very dependent. His father remembering the little shed he had built behind the house, got an idea. Jay, he thought, needed something to live and care for. So Jay’s Dad, who grew up as a farm boy in North Dakota, picked up some rollers. Every day, they would wheel Jay up that hill, and park him in front of the loft: to watch, to smell, to hear, to Dream. As things will sometimes happen, it caught! Just so happened that his neighbor was none other than mi hermano en Christo, hard working Dan Hermasillo. Dan raced pigeons, he loved to help people. You get the idea.
Shortly after I met Jay which has to be a good twenty-five years ago, I was so impressed with Jay’s courage that I told him that I was going to make him famous. He scoffed at the notion, but famous he did become. At the time, I was into writing articles for the ARPN. So I wrote up a story with some pictures of pigeon racer Jay Sparrow, dba Rockin Robbin. A little while later, a local newspaper got hold of me and wanted to write a story on the sport of racing pigeons. I suggested that the reporter visit Jay to see if there was a story there.
The reporter visited Jay and found her story. So impressed was she that she discussed her story with one of her friends who had been at the bite to film a documentary. But just hadn’t found a subject with the potential to become nominated for an Academy Award in the under thirty minute category. She met Jay and realized the potential. After her visit, the film maker called me wanting to make a documentary on Jay flying pigeons, but didn’t have all the money she needed. I suggested that she contact the AU, who helped to support her effort.
A couple of years went by. I moved from El Sobrante, north of Richmomnd, to Santa Rosa. Raising a young family, plus being self employed, I didn’t have time for much else One day, out of the Blue, Jay calls me and invites my charming wife, Sue, and I to the opening of “his documentary”. It was shown in an artsy theater in Marin County. And there I saw Jay, in person and on the screen. But he wasn’t alone. There was the Master himself Hank Vernazza on the big screen, as well as several other outstanding Bay Area flyers.
I don’t know if this all went to Jay’s head, being with all those Champions and being interviewed like a Champion, but something happened. Through that experience there was a transmission that few get to enjoy. Jay was on his way to becoming a Champion.
I don’t recall where Jay’s original stock came from other than from Dan and former young bird great Rick Johnson, now of Cordelia, California. But I am sure that he also received birds from the guys in the MTZ club, who generosity is only exceeded by their flying skills. Probably something like this: “Hey Jay, ah I was looking at my birds the other day, and darn, I had an extra hen that was going to waste. You have any interest in trying her out? Her dad won the Combine at the six and her mother was the Club Hall of Fame winner for young birds last year”. You know what I am talking about. We have all been blessed in a similar way.
There are a couple more things that I haven’t told you. Jay’s loft was very small: 10' x 10', or so. He didn’t have room for many prisoners, and bred from his racers. He flew double widowhood. He would spend hours watching his birds, as those masters of old did.
What else? Jay had a major health issue several years ago, and had to be placed on a breathing machine. When this happened, I heard from His Mother that he gave his birds to a new flyer, who, reportedly, eventually sold them to another flyer for a tidy sum of money.
Now I know what I am forgetting. When Jay broke his neck in that automobile accident at age19, he became paralyzed. Yes, Jay was quadriplegic. And, so a hero to me. I love people who meet the challenges of their lifes head on, not running away, saying I can’t do it!
That was Jay!! The one who had to continuously move the back of his wheel chair so that he could breathe, hence the origin of the handle “Rockin Robbin”.
Rest in Peace Little Brother.
Storm C. Goranson, PE, REHS
Environmental Engineering Associates, Inc.
446 Beaver Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
With love and respect