Rebecca Blanchard flung the homing pigeon hard into Saturday morning's clear and sunny sky.
The pigeon flapped its wings a few times, then gracefully flew east before making a wide turn southwest toward his home in Macon, Ga.
Mrs. Blanchard, her husband, Jim, and four grandchildren gathered on the Evans Town Center Field to say goodbye to the pigeon that had been found on the couple's Martinez property about two weeks ago.
On April 9, the day after the family returned from a Masters Week trip, the Blanchards' granddaughter, Kelly Giles, 9, fell down outside the couple's West Lake home and saw the pigeon under the car.
"He didn't seem to want to get away or do anything," said Mrs. Blanchard, who raises finches. "So we got him out from under the car and I realized he had two wristbands on - one is green and one is red."
Mrs. Blanchard said the bird seemed in perfect health. After a little research, she discovered that the number and letters on the bands around the pigeon's legs indicated that the bird belonged to a member of the Macon chapter of the American Racing Pigeon Union.
After contacting the chapter's treasurer, Louis de Michael, Mrs. Blanchard said she found out that the pigeon was not on a planned flight.
"He hadn't been released. The member (that owned the bird) was in the hospital with pneumonia and (de Michael) is thinking probably that whoever is feeding them let him loose," she said. "(De Michael) said what's happened is that he has flown so far that he is tired and he needs to be built back up."
Mrs. Blanchard said she, Kelly and grandson Dalton, 8, have been feeding the pigeon wild bird seed and water for nearly two weeks, preparing for his flight back home.
The Blanchards tried to send the pigeon on his homeward flight earlier in the week, but high winds delayed the pigeon's departure.
"The wind was blowing so hard that day," Mr. Blanchard said. "We figured even without knowing everything, that at 4 p.m., going back with that wind being so strong, if he got tired coming here, he's going to be extremely tired going back."
De Michael told Mrs. Blanchard that a morning launch would work better because pigeons don't fly at night, and that the several times she threw the pigeon into the air in her back yard didn't work because the pigeon was likely homing on her.
Mrs. Blanchard said she could tell the pigeon was ready to go home. When she lifted him out of the cage, he was wiggling and attempting to flap his wings.
Saturday's attempts were successful. Mrs. Blanchard said she spoke Sunday with de Michael, who said the pigeon made it back home around 4 p.m., probably after having roosted in a tree overnight Saturday.
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