*With grateful thanks to Henk Simonsz www.pigeonfever.nl
*Ad Schaerlaeckens with the ambitious American Mike Ganus. They wanted to buy a child out of super breeder ‘De Kleinen’ from Gaby Vandenabeele.
The early 1990’s
Meanwhile we are talking about the period of the early 1990’s. A period that for Ad Schaerlaeckens meant a new beginning in his pigeon career. He had been successful before, during the period 1995-2000, but now the Ad Schaerlaeckens ‘Steam Train’ turned into a ‘High Speed Monster’!
This spectacle was preceded by a visit that Ad wanted to make to an upcoming global star in the pigeon sport who lived on the border of East and West Flanders in the village of Dentergem. The name of this fancier was Gaby Vandenabeele. Ad wanted to bring more power-pigeons into his colony, and the pigeons from Gaby were known by insiders to have lots of stamina when the going was getting really tough. Even in very hot weather and with a head wind, these pigeons still felt in their element in the 500 kilometer plus races, and they were already on their way to acquiring world fame. The cracks that would make Gaby Vandenabeele world famous were at that time only just born and, naturally, Ad Schaerlaeckens was one of the first to buy pigeons of the sort that could fly in the lead on the one-day long-distance races.
Ad Schaerlaeckens made a deal for an ambitious American named Mike Ganus to try and acquire a pigeon out of the star breeder from Gaby, the so called ‘De Kleinen’. They were certainly on the right track there, because the ‘De Kleinen’, as it turned out later, was a breeder with so much potential as very few others. He became father and grandfather of a number of real super pigeons, like the ‘Picanol’ (82-240), and also the ‘Wittenbuik’ (B88-112). The ‘Wittenbuik’ produced the ‘Kolonel’, out of which came the famous ‘Bliksem’ (B98-062). In other words, the ‘De Kleinen’ was also superior in continuing his qualities over several generations.
We will stay for the moment with the pigeons that were born in the time of the ‘Wittenbuik’, because Ad Schaerlaeckens with Mike Ganus had indeed succeeded in buying a child directly out of the ‘De Kleinen’. And because it was a very expensive pigeon, Gaby gave them a small dark blue hen from 1988 as a gift. This hen came out of the ‘Picanol’ (a son of the ‘De Kleinen’) and was called ‘Sissy’ (B88-088). Gaby himself was much taken with the ‘Sissy’ and thought he had helped the men to a very special pigeon.
Gaby Vandenabeele had been absolutely right about the hen, but the ‘Sissy’ was the classic example of a modern racing pigeon that is assessed completely wrong because of her physical appearance. The new owners of the ‘Sissy’ made the same mistake, a fact that Ad Schaerlaeckens is more than willing to admit and of which he can tell now with lots of humour, not sparing himself in the process. Placing himself in the underdog position is something that Ad likes to do. Everything is just luck, he doesn’t know a thing and just blunders about, he says about himself… My experience is that the fanciers, who present themselves like that, are often the ones that are calling the shots on the result lists… and it is no different with Ad Schaerlaeckens. In all my life I have spoken with a lot of (top) fanciers, but I have never met one who knows so much about every aspect of the pigeon sport as Ad Schaerlaeckens. I wouldn’t like Ad Schaerlaeckens loose among my pigeons to choose a few. The way that he can describe his pigeons of the past and of the present is really astonishing, and can only mean that he knows an enormous amount about them.
When Ad and Mike arrived home with the two pigeons, they looked them over once more. But when you have mainly speed and middle-distance champions in your loft, and you want to acquire pigeons that can fly long distances, these birds often disappoint in the hand. They don’t have heads like angry looking fighting cocks, no strong backs on which you can bend a nail, and no mighty wings. Instead they are small, muscular, silken-soft birds with heads that display an extremely bright personality. Those are the pigeons that are able to endure the one-day long-distance races when the going gets really tough, and those are the ones that will not drop out of the sky after 400 kilometer because they have run out of steam. The bottom line was that in the end the men didn’t like the look of the ‘Sissy’ at all. Mike asked straight away if he could not change his mind about both pigeons. Ad gave him his money back and would see what he himself could do with the little hen or if someone else would like to have her. He was prepared to give the ‘Zoon Kleinen’ a (small) chance in the breeding loft.
To be certain, Ad first showed the pigeons to other champions in the pigeon sport whom he was friendly with. We won’t name any names, but some of these men were real ‘specialists’. And all of these specialists with the exception of one, at the time still young, fancier, agreed unanimously. The ‘Zoon Kleinen’ was given the benefit of the doubt, but the ‘Sissy’ would not help advance Ad Schaerlaeckens, in fact, he would do better to dispose of her. This was the confirmation of Ad’s own belief and he decided to sell the hen and placed her in the aviary for the time being. By the way, that young fancier that found the ‘Sissy’ a super hen was Kees Bosua…
Through his achievements, Ad Schaerlaeckens was quite well known in the pigeon sport world and he regularly negotiated for overseas buyers who wanted to buy pigeons in the Netherlands and Belgium. Because of his job as a teacher of English and Dutch, Ad was fluent in foreign languages and that of course was an advantage in bringing together people who were looking for pigeons and those who wanted to sell them. The ‘Zoon Kleinen’ went directly into the breeding loft and one of the first young that he produced went to Cor Leijtens from Middelbeers. The general opinion was that this youngster did not really honour the name of its grandfather. The bird had trouble finding its way home from barely five kilometers away, went into every other loft, and was disposed of in the end. In the meantime it had produced a youngster which was allowed to stay. And that was lucky for fancier Leijtens because this pigeon would become his famous ‘Pentium’, 2nd World Champion Long-Distance…
Ad Schaerlaeckens himself bred a pigeon that became 2nd Ace Pigeon of all of Brabant 2000 out of the ‘Zoon Kleinen’. Later, Ad would also bring descendants from the ‘Kolonel’ (father of the ‘Bliksem’), the ‘Stier’, the ‘Adjudant’ and other toppers from Gaby Vandenabeele to his lofts in Baarle Nassau. At that time, Ad didn’t recognize the quality of these pigeons at all, especially because they didn’t perform very well as youngsters. The ‘Zoon Kleinen’ and the 2nd Ace Pigeon were sold and the rest was disposed of. Even to this day, Ad Schaerlaeckens calls this one of the biggest mistakes that he has ever made. This I find a brave confession for a fancier of his caliber. Nevertheless, there was still a light at the end of the tunnel, and not just a little light. But first Ad Schaerlaeckens would tempt fate regarding the ‘Sissy’ in such a manner you could hardly fathom. One of Ad’s contacts was a Japanese fancier who was always looking for upcoming lofts that were not yet known to the masses. He was very interested in the ‘Sissy’ and wanted to buy her. After all she still sat in the aviary… They agreed on a price and the ‘Sissy’ was dispatched to Japan, on the other side of the world. This was the end of the ‘Sissy’ story, or so it seemed…
(to be continued)