Birds of a feather

CASTLETON - Businessman Les Faris, owner of the Castleton Redemption Center and the Blind Spot at Castleton Four Corners, acquired an interest in raising birds at a young age. As a teen growing up in Sacramento, Calif., he raised a shed full of beautiful show pigeons. The birds frequently winged their way around the Golden State's hot Central Valley and always returned to Faris' home to roost.

Like most teens with childhood hobbies, Faris drifted away from such diversions in high school. Yet, little did he know that he would one day rediscover the wonderful world of pigeons-this time to become one of Vermont's foremost racing bird experts. And, if you'll pardon the pun, he's been cooing about pigeons ever since.

"There's a very beautiful and ancient heritage to pigeons," Faris said. "You first read about the birds in the Bible. Noah's white doves, in search of dry land, were trained pigeons when they left the ark. Egyptian officials used racing pigeons to carry messages up the Nile River to the Pharaohs to keep them posted on local politics, trade and gossip. The Roman used them, too. And by World War II, famous U.S. Army pigeons such as 18-year-old 'G.I. Joe'-whose hallowed remains are enshrined at Fort Monmouth, N.J.- were saving military and civilian lives while helping the Allies defeat fascism."

Faris has studied the birds and finds their ancient icons as bearers of spirituality, peace an sacrifice to be accurate.

"The birds really do like their human companions," he said. "They are trained to always come home after an exercise flight or long-distance race. They are the race horses of the sky."

Hawks and low utility power lines are one of the few enemies of racing pigeons.

"They don't fly very high in altitude," Faris said. "Sometimes a wayward bird can fly right into a power line decapitating itself."

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