Some feel that in my previous post I let our current group of "political leaders" off far too easily. Since writing it, I have received an indication that the complainants may be right. The indication came from Walt Brasch, distinguished journalist and educator, with whose work I keep in touch.
When I got the most recent issue of Professor Brasch's newsletter, "Wanderings", it provided an update on a Pennsylvania problem that I thought had been solved more than a decade ago. The sort of problem that makes the heart sick and the day gray just to think about. A real moral problem--still there, still sullying the reputation of the Commonwealth, years after it should have been gone.
Pigeon shoots. For "sport", for "fun", for "profit". Here's what they involve:
Thousands of pigeons, often trucked into Pennsylvania to be killed for the entertainment of inhumane humans, are released from cramped cages and shot at close range by "sports" -men (and presumably some "sports"-women) armed with 12 gauge shotguns. Few of the birds are killed at once. Some manage to crawl off the field of butchery to die in agony, while many others are strangled or bludgeoned by children--some as young as eight-who receive a little money for this soul-shriveling "work".
I first became aware of the "sport" of the pigeon shoot back in the mid-90s, when it was linked to the small Schuylkill County coal town of Hegins. And the Hegins pigeon shoot managed to get national attention for the state, of the very worst kind. I don't imagine the people of Hegins are worse than the rest of us. But this thing was a tradition with them, going back to 1934 and the Depression years; and besides, the "profits" from the annual event went for "good causes". Like equipment for the fire department and other truly important civic needs. They just didn't know of a different and better way to meet those needs.
When I learned about the Hegins pigeon shoot-- this was about the mid 90s-- I immediately joined the public outcry against it. As I recall, there were a lot of us crying out; and by 1998 or 1999 this event was gone. I hope the community has healed, and has found a better way to raise money. Even at the time it ended I felt sorry for the Heginsians who had nothing to do with the pigeon shoot, and who wanted nothing more than to live a normal life in a town perceived as normal.
But if I thought the end of the Hegins event meant the end of pigeon shoots in our state, I was deluded. One person who could have set me straight--better than perhaps anyone else--is Heidi Prescott , senior vice president of campaigns for the Humane Society of the United States. Much more of her in my next post.