|ROY HUNTERTHE CHARACTER
what a PIGEON MAN
|I have to be one of the luckiest pigeons guys around...why? To have been close friends with some of the very best flyers and the
biggest characters in my area of Northern California was amazing when I think of it now. This story is about a guy that was very
unique. Eccentric would be putting it mildly. Funny, always cheerful and he also had a sense of charisma about him. RoyHunter.
We all hear about "don't judge a book by its cover" on occasion right? This surely applied to Roy. Inside this man was a mixture of
intelligence, generosity and anold style personable character similar to those we knew of in the early days of cinema. (alot like
Roy quietly came onto the scene when he moved from the Bay area up to the Novato area finding a little houseboat set on solid
ground just 50 feet away from the Petaluma River. The land was owned by Mike Narro, a wealthy guy who knew Roy well (great
friends) and let him just stay there.........Mike and Roy went back some years alot of which I did not know. Roy was older than me
probably a couple years younger than Al Boconne at the time he moved and eventuallyraced in the Tam Club. Roy also got Mike
Narro into the birds, both flying the TAM club.
Well the story goes like this.........Roy looks up (he lived just below Al Boccone's new house which was on a hilltop overlooking the
river....) and sees pigeons flocking/flying around. He drives up and introduces himself to Al, parking his worn and torn Datsun (it
looked like it was a victim of a semi truck battering)...in Al's Drive way. After some small talk, Roy decides to buy 4 young birds from
Al. Heck Roy at that time did'nt even have a loft built yet.........!!! talk about impulsive? Roy was a survivor, not having much
money and learned to live rather scantilly from being on his sailboat at sea. At the time, he was doingsome janitorial work, self
employed. (Though his dad owned a large construction company in Marin County, later that Roy would partially inherit).
Roy had no idea what to expect but felt the birds were probably going to be cheap.......(ha!) The 4 birds were placed in a basket that
Al vehemently said he wanted back asap!! As Roy whipped out his checkbook (in which the account was almost empty!), He was
shocked when the price came out of Al's mouth. Without so much as a flinch though, he wrote out the check and left with the
birds........Later on when Roy and I became great friends, he shared this story with me.
.Mydescription of Roy, his home and lofts is not meant to sound degrading . As Roy was one of my very best and dear friends, my
text merely attempts to draw a picture of how it 'was' as seen not only by myself but nearly everyone who knew
of Roy Hunter, and specifically for those who did not know him.
Roy had already began to have a reputation as someone who was "different". I noticed he had a keen sense when it came to ties
with all animal species... He had dogs, he had cats, he had parrots.....racing pigeons and of course later on his famous goat !!
My friendship with Roy Hunter began in earnest when I had been fired from myjob as a service manager for a security firm in San
Francisco. I was commuting through Marin to Petaluma in those days and then landed a job with a firm based in LA which opened
an office in San Rafael....(turns out the firing was a blessing) I used to train the old birds every saturday 100 miles and I would pick
up Roys team very early on my way up the mountain..... My office being close to his house made it easy for me come visit on the
way home.........daily. By this time, he was the hottest flier in the United States as he had just won Big Grand All American.
When you came to his little humble patch of ground and saw what was there, you
would never think that HE was the best flyer in the USA at the time. People in our
combine were all scratching their heads.......wondering how in the world could this be? On his meteoric rise, the great Al Boccone
would come down the hill and visit, look around at his lofts, look at this feed, taste it, smell it........shake his head and walk away in
Jim Calia.........same story........many others came, looking for the visual secret that could enlighten them as to how this man could
become successful so quickly. No one could see any semblance of reasoning that brought success. In fact, on the
contrary.......the word was......"what a mess over there" goat crap all over, dirty uncleaned lofts.......damp, near the river......etec.
etec. But how was he getting so many birds out in front? Old birds and young birds.....wow. Uncleaned lofts? Roy's Widowhood
loft was darkened, adjustable skylights and filled with rice hills. It has the ambiance of an old barn, the kind we see in the movies
with lots of feral pigeons inhabiting it...... The loft was WHAT THE BIRDS LIKED....not the white painted, ultra sanitary loft we often
see and we correlate with success. His loft had more NATURE in its make up.
Roys lofts? if you could peek inside the darkness of the widow loft, you could see it was full of rice hulls both in the nests and
floor.......never cleaned. Never ever scraped. There were no drafts, there were no huge windows allowing the cocks
to see outside.........but there was a bubble skyight in the center of the rooftop of the loft. Inside this skylight, Roy mounted window
shade horizontally so that he could control the amount of light and the timing of the light anytime he wished.When the cocks
returned, he kept it semi dark and quiet......when he was ready for "form" to revive he would slowly open the shade until full sunlight
was in the loft by shipping day........At the same time, Roy flew the traditional method of cocks via the Mark Gordon book.........to the
"T" as he would tell me. This also meant that Roy used the typical cleaning mixture/ going to heavy for the race.
He raced the cocks every other week but often would double up on a cock when he was really in "form".....and ship it again. We
had 10 combine races in those days. Roy fed in the box and went one step further, he watered in the box as well!!! He knew
which cocks to keep home this way since the more water a cock had consumed, the less 'in form' he was....... Roy flew cock birds
only in Old Birds and both sexes in Ybs.
One day we sat chatting and he had just gotten a Pit Bull with champion bloodlines that was 8 weeks old...... "Skipper" he was
aptly named since he would go with Roy on the sailboat that he still owned...........tied to the end of his dock at the edge of the
Petaluma River. Roy always had two things with him, his pipe and his dog. Later on to be followed by his goat...billy. " Can you
find me a baby goat"? "Goat?" I said....for Gods sake man, you want me to build you an Ark too?" He would laugh and say "ok,
yeah why not"? hahaha. So it went, I brought him Billy and from then on things just got funnier and funnier.
Picture this: every morning Roy had his pipe in his mouth taking his morning stroll with none other than Billy and Skipper..............by
his side. Roy was about 50 at that time and having been in his past : a boxer and a world class solo sailor, he knew how to stay fit
and trim..........and he was. He never came out and told me that I was eating too much..........instead we would talk and he would tell
me what he would eat.........."one egg", one piece of toast....one this, one that.....(not two or three) then I began to realize he was
telling me something.......in his tactful sort of way. Its how he kept his weight down and alot of this, was due to his being on
the sailboat out in the middle of the sea.................with very few rations aboard that he had to stretch out until he was land bound
again.......great conditioning. In reality, I now realize that Roy was a "minimalist''. A survivor who shucked the
need for "stuff", material collections. Looking back now, I realize alot of things that back then at the time; I was young and not in
After I moved east about 30 miles to Vacaville........Roy would come visit when he trained his birds and stay awhile. I had just lost
everything I had and escaped Petaluma with barely anything after interest rates climbed to 18% and I was stuck with two Spec
houses I had built.......so we were starting over, living in an old 2 bedroom trailer on 5 acres with my then wife Debbie and two young
daughters, Jenell and Lana. I was very busy during this period, struggling to survive and Roy in his return to birds realized that he
was complacent. ( After so much success, Roy abruptly quit and we sold most of his top winners to Taiwan.) After a two yr.
absence, he came back from sailing realizing he was too old for the Sea. Restarting pigeons again,this time around he found that
he had no "drive" and decided to quit for good. He took skipper on his boat and just did the San Francisco Bay as much as he
could. Dropping pigeon racing .........cold turkey. When Roy moved on, he really
did just that............moved on.
I had had some success starting my own business and had bought a place downin Mexico, Kino bay to be exact. One day Roy
came by and I had finished our house by then. I told him about Kino Bay and he wanted to go to Mexico and see what I had
discovered. I gave him the keys to my place and off he went with Skipper for three weeks. On his return, he was a different
guy!!! He had purchased a lot and already began to have his place built.........right on the beach! He was so happy, so enthusiastic
that he was able to find and discover a place that had everything he wanted in life............He would make frequent trips down in his
van and while staying at my place which was just up the beach from his, he would have improvements made that were just
great! When he told me things that he wanted to do to spruce up my place, I gladly gave him the dough and he had it done....
By this time, our friendship had reached a new level. His plan was to live there every other month for a month at a time. This was
great as I had a boat there and we planned to fish and do some diving too. I felt that Roys new found life and happiness were in
part due to my opening Kino Bay up to him. I felt good about this.
By now Roys house was just about finished......and he was heading down with a van load of things for the interior such as some
personal furnishings he had. Story is, is that Roy had a Honda cycle on the back of his Van when he arrived in
Kino.... I had never seen nor heard of Roy riding a Motorcycle. Roy was like a kid again. Through me, he had discovered a place, a
land where he was comfortable and he felt it had everything he wanted. He was in love with the Sea and so this quaint little town,
his house nestled on the beach that stretched 7 miles was perfect for him. The water was warm, blue, clear and yet not too hot. He
was always grateful for me introducing him to it, but never ever really said so. Roy was not a man of those words but you could
read him and his thoughts by his actions and his exhuberance. Like many pigeons guys I knew, he had a crusty outer shell. Once
inside that shell, you then would finda man with the heart of gold......One day while on his patio over looking the sea........Roy said to
me...." There must be a God"............. That stuck with me forever when he said that. It meant in no uncertain terms, that he
was at the pinnacal of his happiness in his life.
This is the view from Roys patio. It was here he had found
the answers to what now m his life complete...... Kino was a
simple place but rich with all the natural elements that make our
senses stop for the moment. Realizing there is more to life
than what we constantly strive to achieve.. Its here that you're
at one with nature and spirit.
Roy became popular very quickly in Kino; his workers had realized his happy go lucky attitude and laughter was addicting to them.
He spoke some spanish and gained their respect for his adaption to their culture. His funeral in the peasant cemetary in Kino was
attended by so many of the locals, and this showed his popularity in this small town of 5,000 people. The workers who built his
casawere especially saddened by his departure...
On that fateful day Roy arrived with his Van full of items........it was a Sunday. It was always understood that on weekends in Kino,
you never rode a bicycle on the main road, or anything that could get you involved with vehicles. On weekends, people would
come to Kino from one hour away, Hermosillo and it was customary to hangout on the beach and drink a few beers....So on Sunday
when it was time to leave.....beware of being anywhere on the roads until Monday morning.......then we had the town and the beach
to ourselves for the entire week.
I received a call in California on Monday morning from my friends in Kino that Roy had been in an accident on his Honda motorcycle
and died.....It was a day I shall never forget. Many things raced through my mind, including the difficulties involved with getting him
and his dog Skipper out of the country and back to the USA. I called his mother (Roys dad had died the year before) and told her I
would go down immediately. She gave me the permission to do whatever I had to do. Roy had inherited some funds from his
Fathers passing which enabled him to build his house in Kino......
Then the phone rang again and it was some woman claiming to be Roys wife....huh? who? Roy was still married? Apparently
they had no children and they just never took the time to divorce........wow!! She had caught wind of his death and asked to come
with me to Mexico to take care of his business.
I was struggling with it all. Having lost my very best two pigeon friends who were just like family to me was difficult. I watched
Joe McEvoy go, I watched Al Boccone go and now out of no where.........Roy departs this earth..........Call it an empty feeling if you
will.... Roy and Joe were like family to me....and when you lose family.....well you just never get over it really. How close was I to
Joe and Roy? Ask yourself this question, ' how many pigeon guys leave YOU in their will' ? Both of these guys felt our
friendships were important enough to do just that. To this day, I am astonished yet honored they placed so much importance
in our relationship....
Roys wife and I arrived in Kino on Monday. After viewing Roy layed out at the morgue, it was very surreal to say the least. There
was no evident sign of trauma but when he fell off the bike, he did hit the rear of his head on the pavement. Apparently, this trauma
caused heart failure afterwards while in the ambulance. We bought some burial clothes and made arrangements for Roy to be
brought to Kino Bay Cemetary. It was a nice funeral with many many Mexican people coming to pay respects to Roy. Many people
knew of him and liked his easy going style and great sense of humor. Many of the workers who he had hired were there with their
families. It was a very touching scene. My respect for the Mexican people there at Kino was high for they were simple God loving
people. Hard workers struggling to just be happy with their families and doing a good job of it at that.......I thanked all of them for
attending. I told them that Roy loved Kino and that being here in this cemetary, was his way of giving respect to the country
and the locals of Kino whom he greatly admired.....
"Skipper" was a very special dog. I
knew him when he was a puppy. After Roys death
Skipper became my dog and lived to be 18. I have
had the honor of having many dogs in my lifetime,
but Skipper will always hold a special place in my
heart. Here, his expressive eyes tell you that he
knows full well his master Roy had departed. As it
turns out , Skipper adopted ME and we ended up
traveling to Kino together many times........Skipper
knew we both were connected to Roy........
The task of taking care of business was just now starting. Remember, we are in another country and the rules are
different.......vastly different. The Mexican Government finally named me as the person to finalize Roys estate through reading his
will and getting certified copies of letters from his Mother that I was in fact the guy to help out. During this rather long and arduous
process, skipper was at the house in the front yard being fed and watered by a 24hr. guard who was posted by the local police to
protect or prevent anyone from entering the house.
I arranged to go back down and sell off Roys personal items inside the house and give the funds to his estranged wife.... I also
towed back his Toyota for her. Later on I arranged the sale of the house and the funds went to his Mother. I finally got permission
to take Skipper home with me to California where he immediately became my dog at the office and warehouse. Skipper could not
be around other dogs (at my residence) for obvious reasons, so this was the next best thing since I had lived close to the
warehouse and someone was always there doing something anyway..... Skipper lived to be a grand old man of 18 yrs. before we
had to have him put to sleep. Its hard to explain my connection to Skipper but he made it easy for me to be his new master. He
knew Roy and I were buddies and it was apparent in his final years (skipper) when I would read his eyes. He hadsuch expressive
eyes. I could read that whenever I was not at the office/shop he would look at me as if to wonder if I was going to "disappear"
and l leave him alone. I have had many dogs through the years but none has the expressive eyes Skipper had. Almost a true
presence of mind....... We all cried when Skipper left us..........he was put down at 18 yrs. old.
|The late Roy Hunter and Jim Lewis, 1976 Tam Club dinner