Friday, May 12, 2006

HEGINS PIGEON SHOOT: Crimson Country Takes Its Best Shot

[The next RERUN comes from a Nightclubbing that covered the notorious Labor Day bird shoot in the Hegins Valley. By the early 90's, the affair had stirred up the national anti-cruelty to animals folks enough that every Labor Day held the potential for a riot. The locals actually loved it. They hated out-of-towners, particularly those they considered to be hippies, liberals and gun control fanatics. They liked nothing more than opportunities to bloody those they considered sissies. And the local lawmen, of which there were plenty, always tossed in a helping hand. The violence drew bigger crowds. The beatings would take place early, the protestors shipped off to the county jail, and by afternoon the shoot would be in full swing.

Pigeons were brought out in wood boxes and put on the firing range. The boxes were opened, the startled pigeons flopped out and blasted to eternity at point blank range by the shooters. Those not immediately finished were picked up and their necks snapped or heads torn off by "bird boys" who would throw them into trash bins. Remarkably there was music. Unremarkably, there was alcohol. It was an even of uncommon brutality and it went on for hours. Some of it was about gambling, gambling for idiots. It pit the birds against the 'marksmen', the birds theoretically having been trained to flop out of the boxes fast. This was said to have been done by poking them with a stick in sessions prior to the shoot. The practice was called "polishing the bird" -- ha, ha. Get it?

Due to relentless bad publicity in the 90's, eventually the state stepped in and banned the Hegins Pigeon Shoot.]

(September 1990) It wasn't quite the party the locals hoped it would be at the Fred Coleman Labor Day Pigeon Shoot in Hegins, an event which is supposed to be, according to patrons, festive.

But the gild was off the lily after protestors led by Steve Hindi scuffled with locals and a legion of state troopers shortly after noon. By 1:30, a good ol' boy quartet called Crimson Country had set up stage in the center of the picnic grove.

As birds bounced and fluttered weakly from the trap boxes and the ack-ack of continuous shotgun volleys spread their feathers over the playing fields of Hegins, Crimson Country launched into "Wipeout" by the Surfaris.

Over the next couple of hours the four-man band played creditable covers of tunes by Randy Travis and Hank Williams, Sr. and Jr. Around 3, as the pigeon body count multiplied, Crimson Country played the Elvis Presley standard, "Don't Be Cruel." Few seemed to notice the Grand Guignol irony of the selection.

While all this was going on, people selling T-shirts commemorating the shoot were doing a brisk business. Some shirts bore the saying, "Shoot pigeons ... not drugs!"; "Let feathers fly and freedom ring!"; and "Save a pigeon ... shoot a protester." However, the hottest title was a stark ebon number emblazoned with a bastardization of the 82nd Airborne's motto, "Kill them all, let God sort 'em out later/I survived the 1990 Hegins Labor Day Pigeon Shoot."

Those went fast. Most prospective purchasers had only one choice of size -- triple-X. "I got one!" yelled a happy camper, his shirt hanging almost to his knees.

As some fans hunkered in the bleachers overlooking the range and others circulated by the food and beer stands in the grove, a grim atmosphere hung over the park. Children played obliviously on monkey bars.

Bird blood dripped occasionally from overhead and, occasionally, a wounded pigeon that had escaped the firing range minutes earlier fell on the civilians.


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