By Ski Grabanski
I would like to introduce Glen Steelhammer of Rochester Washington to you. Glen is a member of the Southwest Washington Racers Club (SWWR) and Puget Sound Combine. Three years ago, the Evergreen Concourse invited the Puget Sound Combine to ship with them to try and reduce shipping costs for everyone. As a result of the joint shipping, it was also decided to have a combined race result of the two organizations called the Northwest Federation. I won’t go through all the results, but Glen has won 12 Federation races in the last three years. In 2012 & 2013 he has been Champion and Master Loft, had the first two Champion birds in 2012 and 2nd and 3rd Champion birds in 2013. He was only 2.5 points behind the Champion bird that was flown by Steve Lesley of the Top Gun Club. Glen is on the short end of the Federation and is almost 100 miles short of the long end loft. What is really amazing, on races that favor the long end, Glen is right there. It doesn’t matter if it’s a headwind or tailwind day, Glen is right near the top of the race sheet. Oh, what you might find of interest, Glen got back into the sport just a short time ago in 2009 after a long absence.
Glen was introduced to the birds when he was about 7 years old. An employee on the family farm gave Glen 5 homers and he can still remember the color of those birds and how amazing he thought they were. He said his parents encouraged him in having the birds. Glen said he thought his parents were hoping that by having the birds, he would develop an interest in reading and it would also teach him responsibility at the same time. A small loft was built for the birds by Glen’s father and the employee that gave him the birds. Glen’s parents were correct. He proceeded to order every book he could find on racing homers. He would wait patiently every month for a new issue of “The American Racing Pigeon”. After showing a great interest and responsibility in the birds, the loft was expanded and he ended up with 8 pair of pigeons.
Glen started to buy his own pigeons when he was about twelve. He purchased a pair of Hanssenses and some white Belgian pigeons. When he turned fifteen and was close to getting his driver’s license he decided he would like to start racing the birds. Well somehow he got in contact with an individual that used to fly with the local Olympia Club before they kicked him out for financial problems. He had met this person at the fair and received a couple pair of pigeons that he was assured were better than what he had. He also volunteered to get Glen a new pigeon clock for $100. After waiting nine months and no clock, Glen demanded his money back, which took some doing. That left somewhat of a sour taste in Glen’s mouth with the whole pigeon culture. He said at the time he was very interested in cars, football and girls. Needless to say the birds took a back seat to everything else.
In 1983 Glen and his wife Clela decided to go to the local fair (oh, oh). But this time they met Pete Andree, who was running the pigeon department. He flew with the Olympia Club and they hit it off immediately. It wasn’t long before Glen had some pigeons again. Pete gave him some young birds and also convinced some club members to do the same. Another club member, Adolfo Capestany really became a good friend and encouraged him by donating young birds for the upcoming season. Glen was very excited and started training in the spring time and was triple and single tossing the birds. He still remembers taking 1st, 3rd and 4th in his first race flying against all the old retired experts. Needless to say he was hooked. Aldolfo introduced Glen to Joe Johnson, at the time one of the pigeon greats in our sport here in the Puget Sound area. They quickly became very good friends. Glen had a funny story to share about when he called Joe on the phone to inquire about buying some birds. He clearly remembers Joe saying “We’ll talk later”. Click. The phone line fell silent. When old birds was over, to Glen’s surprise Joe called him and asked him to stop by. Glen said that luckily Adolfo put in a good word for him. Glen said he doesn’t recall being so nervous before. Joe was a racing legend in the sport and to this day one of the top pigeon flyers he has ever met. As Joe was showing the birds to Glen, he was sweating about which ones he could afford. Joe told him he would go easy on him. He told Glen he sold birds for $300 a piece (quite a sum for those days). Glen finally got enough courage to ask him what exactly “going easy on me” was going to cost. To his surprise, Joe said one bag of feed for each bird. Glen went home with five pair of birds that day. They became very close friends after that. Glen said he bred a lot of super pigeons out of the five pair. Glen has one other funny story about Joe he would like to share with you. When Glen was about 13 or 14 he was showing some pigeons at the local fair. He had a gorgeous mealy hen that trapped into his loft with a GOLD USA band on it. When he was showing the bird at the fair a gentleman (Joe) asked Glen if that was his bird, and if it was, where he had gotten it? Glen said that she had trapped into his loft and wasn’t she a “Jewel”? “That’s my bird!!” Joe exclaimed. Glen said he thought he could detect smoke rolling out of Joe’s ears, he was not a happy camper. Glen ended up keeping the bird, and they laughed about it many years later. Glen had a lot of success with Joe’s birds and birds that were brought in from Cambell Strange. By 1998 work was very demanding, and their 3 children were entering sports and other activities. He didn’t want to miss anything raising the family and at this time decided to step away from the birds. In 2003 he took over the family farm business and now lives in the home he grew up in. He knew at some time in the future he would get back into the sport.
By 2009 all the kids were out of the house and Glen found himself with a little extra time. Glen said that summer he was out by the pool on a hot Saturday afternoon when two race birds dropped down and landed on the edge of the pool for a quick drink of water. Glen said he had an “Eureka” moment, and knew that it was time to get back into the sport. Glen and Clela talked it over and it was decided that he would ease back into the sport. In hindsight, Glen said he realizes now that there was no “easing” back into the sport. He just jumped right back into the middle of it all.
Glen said it amazes him how fanciers can use so many different methods and still be successful. Glen feels there are three important aspects of being competitive, they are (1) Maintaining a loft that is adaptable to the ever changing weather conditions and that is suited to your environment (airflow, bone dry conditions and a slow temperature change). (2) Super health of the birds. This is achieved by a good clean and dry environment. Proper nutrition and conditioning and natural resistance built into your birds by natural products. He does not believe in using preventive medications weekly. (3) Obtain the best possible bloodlines you can.
Lofts: Glens old bird loft is fully insulated (walls, ceiling & Floors). The floors are also heated, but only during fall and winter. He has three different sections for the widow cocks with about 20 nest boxes in each section. He only keeps between 10 and 15 cocks in each section. The flying loft is very well ventilated. During the racing season, Glen cleans the flying lofts twice a day. His breeding loft has individual breeding stalls.
Feeding: Glen feeds on a curve for the short to middle distance races. The curve consists of more protein early in the week, and more carbs and fats towards the end of the week. He feeds each old bird individually in his next box. This gives Glen more flexibility if some of the birds are not going to the race, or birds that he wants to feed differently during the week or if he chooses he can feed one grain at a time. He likes the interaction he can have with the birds by playing and teasing them during the feeding. Glen said he likes to get in each pigeons head. He has also hopper fed the birds, 24-7 feed available and has had good results as well. When the birds were hopper fed, his time was limited and that is why he chose that style. Glen said he copies Gaby Vandenabeeles feeding method fairly closely.
Medications and supplements: No medications are given, unless there is no other choice of treatment. He does not believe in giving two day or weekly prevention treatments, Glen does use a lot of natural products (ie. oils, brewer’s yeast, garlic, etc.) and fresh grit and a mixture of minerals 3 times weekly.
Old Birds: Glen flies the traditional widowhood system. If he wants to test more birds out of a new bloodline, he will fly some widowed hens. Though flying double widowhood takes more time to get each group exercised along with the young birds. Before the start of the season, Glen will train the birds out 50 to 75 miles around twelve times. Once the races start, the training tosses stop. Loft flying is on a curve from 20 minutes to up to 45 minutes twice per day. The birds are not exercised on Sundays. Starting on Monday, the birds are exercised 20 minutes and throughout the week exercise time is extended to 45 minutes. Glen said he doesn’t believe it makes any difference if you breed babies out of the flyers or if they just sit eggs before the season starts. He has tried many different methods of showing or not showing the hens or adding just a nest bowl before basketing. He believes it comes down to the quality of the birds as many fanciers have enjoyed great success employing these different methods.
Young birds: Glen flies the young birds on the Light System. His goal for the cocks is to get them trained to 80 miles in a mock race a couple of times. Most of the cocks are just trained and then kept for old birds. He’ll fly the hens either mated or on a sliding door separation system. He does believe to be competitive in young birds you need to fly on a light or dark system to manage the molt.
Bloodlines: Glen is flying a couple of different lines of birds (Kannibaal, Koopman and Tiger lines) from Dave Harrett, Greenbank, WA. From Don Goodrich, Mossyrock, WA. he has some Janssen, Klak Janssen and Verbruggen crosses. From Mike Ganus, Granger IN. he has blended lines from Creator, Rocket and Vervoort. From Glen Raddats, Milwaukee, WI. has the Vendenabeele family.
Glen is a great competitor and would be a great asset to any club or organization. He is willing to donate birds locally for auction to help lower expenses to the different flying organizations. I know I said I wasn’t going to go through any race results, but a couple of races I think worth mention are when Glen took 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th & 24th shipping 9 birds against 128 birds and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th & 14th shipping 16 birds against 387 birds. If you have any questions for Glen, he can be reached by email at email@example.com.