(well, more than once, actually, …a number of times) the Carrier Pigeon Employees Union held an Iron Bird competition to honor the toughest, most dedicated specimen of avian delivery in the State of (where else?) California.
Only two birds made it into the final round, where each carrier pigeon had to carry a 50-pound mail pouch. First, they had to fly up over the top of Mt. Whitney, 14,500 feet high, then swoop down and fly the length of the notorious and aptly-named Death Valley in the hottest part of the summer. Each bird struggled up through Mt. Whitney’s thinning air, gasping for breath as each of them successfully soared over the top of its rocky summit. From there, they proceeded down to the northern edge of Death Valley. The sun was blazing hot, scorching the moisture out of the sparse scrubby vegetation, the bleached bones of other less fortunate animals littering the barren desert floor.
Onward they flew. Exhausted, feathers wilted, gasping with each dehydrated breath, these two tough competitors neared the finish line at the valley’s southern-most end. The crowds of fellow carrier pigeons filling the perches along either side of the finish line loudly cheered on their favorite feathered friend.
In the final quarter mile, one pigeon sprinted ahead with a final burst of energy, crossing the line to the deafening chirps of its adoring fans. In the emotional rush of victory, it strutted around, singing out a melodious song of rejoicing. The other bird, seeing it had lost, slowed down and practically limped across the finish line, tattered and beaten down by this grueling competition. It could only chirp out a single, mournful, pitiful sound through its parched beak as it collapsed in a heap, amidst the wailing of its own supporters.
All this prompted a well-known, loquacious New Yorker pigeon sportscaster who was covering the event to loudly announce into the microphone for all to hear, “Ahh….de trill of victory, and de agony of de tweet!”