About Mike Owen:
Written by: Robert “Bob” Nolan and published in Jan/Feb 2008 Purebred Pigeon Magazine.
The pigeon hobby brings us into contact with interesting people that we likely would never have met or even heard of if it weren’t for our shared love of pigeons. Describing Mike Owen is a difficult task, he has worn many hats…musician, surfer, general contractor, rancher, and pigeon fancier. Into everyone’s life come famous people, life changing people, experiences, and never to be forgotten events. Mike has experienced more than his share of all of these.
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1948, he spent much of his youth moving around as his father was a career Navy man. He developed a love of pigeons at the early age of five. Mike describes the event as follows: At my grandmother’s house the flap of wings caught my attention. High up in a tree was a silver bar Racing Homer. I just had to get a closer look at this beautiful bird perched so high…yet so near. Up the tree I went climbing to heights my parents would have had a heart attack if they had known. To my surprise and delight I was able to reach out and grasp the bird. I brought it gently down to the ground and ran into the house to show my grandmother my new found treasure! My emotions came crashing to earth when Granny told me this was my Uncle Chester’s pet pigeon and to let it go so it would return home. Sensing my disappointment she comfortingly said, ”Tomorrow I’ll take you to see a lot of pigeons.”
The next morning Grama took me by the hand and together we went a few miles to my Uncle Bill’s home. My recollection is of a rather frail man sitting in a rocking chair on his front porch gently rocking back and forth. He came to life when Granny told him about the events of the previous day and my blossoming love of pigeons. He reached over and picked me up putting me in his lap. I looked up at his huge handle bar mustache and couldn’t help noticing the yellow stains that came from unsuccessful spitting of large wads of chewing tobacco. He whistled and to my delight to splashed Homers flew from the barn to our chair. He cracked open a couple of peanuts putting them carefully into my tiny hand. Before I knew what happened, the two birds were pecking madly at the peanuts. That was the signal for others to fly over from the barn as well. Soon, to my delight, I was engulfed with pigeons, on my head, shoulders, and lap. I was in heaven and I really believe that was the day I became a pigeon fancier.
In 1956, Mike’s dad was transferred to submarine duty at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. As luck would have it they lived across the street from a zoo which just happened to be populated by white Homers donated by Walt Disney and Roy Rogers. At night he would sneak into the zoo and into the camel pen when the bird were roosting and come home with these proud possessions. A small loft on the roof of Mike’s family’s apartment was their home. During his junior high school days he had many friends who had pigeons and this stimulated his interests. Especially when he found out about a pet shop in downtown Honolulu that had Pouters, Modenas, Rollers, Fantails and Tumblers. Soon he was the proud owner of yellow and black saddle Fantails. Adding these to his Homers, the backyard was rapidly filling up with pigeons.
Mike remembers his dad’s help in training his Homers. ”My dad had mentioned to the captain of the submarine he was stationed on that I was raised Racing Homers. Just by chance the captain had raised Homers as a boy. He offered to let my dad release my Homers from the sub when they were at sea. So my birds had the distinction of being trained from a submarine. Not many people can say that!”
It was the 1960s — surfing was becoming what every boy wanted to do. Bruce Brown’s movie ENDLESS SUMMER captured the attention of America’s youth that lived anywhere near the ocean. Young Mike Owen got his first surf board at age nine and soon spent most of his free time in the water. As his skills developed he began to tackle bigger and bigger waves until finally he ventured out a few times into the giants walls of water at Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay. He became acquainted with many of the greats of the surfing world that had come to Hawaii to ride the giant waves at places like Bonsai Pipeline. He counted among his acquaintances, Laird Hamilton, Dewey Weber, Phil Edwards and Corky Carroll, just a few names of surfing greats that people might remember today.
Surfing led him into the field of music as well. One of his surfing mentors and next door neighbors was involved in a local band. Mike had previously shown an interest in music and managed to persuade his father to buy him a bass guitar. His self taught skills gravitated towards the blues. This is easy to understand as Mike spent some of his youth with family in Arkansas and had an early exposure to the blues music of that region. It also provided him with the opportunity to sharpen his skills by playing with a couple of bands in Oklahoma. This gave Mike a taste of what show business was all about.
So, when back in Hawaii, he heard his neighbor’s band jamming, he began to hang out there listening and trying to imitate their sound. By the time he was 24 he was good enough to join them for gigs all over the Islands. The height of Mike’s career came when their group was asked to play warm up numbers for Crosby/Stills, Nash and Young. Soon they had the opportunity to be on the same stage as warm up group for Eric Clapton, Donovan, and the Grateful Dead. Rock groups that would play Hawaii often would drop by his neighbor’s home after their concerts and play late into the night. Some times the parties were at Mike’s house and he counted Jimi Hendricks and Carlos Santana among the guest who dropped in. He even saw Elvis Presley’s first concert in Hawaii around 1959.
In 1968, he heard about the Monterey Pops Festival to be held near San Francisco and made up his mind he would attend. He scrapped together enough money to be among the 83,000 who turned out for the inaugural event. An experience he fondly recalls to this day. He also frequented the coffee houses of the Haights-Ahsbury District in San Francisco during the height of the Timothy Leary era. He never considered himself a hippy but he walked the same streets and frequented the same clubs they did.
When it came time to return to Hawaii he discovered his money had run out. The best paying job he could get was washing cars and it took weeks to earn the money enough money to get home.
Although he always has pigeons in Hawaii it wasn’t until he returned to his native Arkansas that he got into showing of pigeons. Mike didn’t start in a small way, he began with a loft 16′ x 64′ and promptly began filling it with Saints from H.P. Macklin, German Toy varieties from Dr. Lynn E. Hummel, and Bokhara Trumpeters from the greats of that era, Clair Holland, Gerry Lebermann, Lee Johnson, Joe Youngheim, and Leon Hurst. At a show in Little Rock, Arkansas in the late sixtes he met the Show Roller greats Ed Emerson, Floyd Mayberry and Bill Goza. Soon he was deep into Show Rollers even being asked on many occasions to judge. Around the same time he met Jeff Adair and has maintained this close pigeon friendship up to the present.
Surfing and music was not enough to pay the bills so along the way Mike learned the carpenter trade. He developed his skills to the point his work was in demand where ever he went. Upon getting his general contractor’s license he was employed by Toyota to build ten executive homes in Japan. His general contracting abilities took him to Hawaii and Puerto Rico for many jobs. Words of mouth had kept him busy most of the time.
Lately he prefers to work closer to home, Mike and the love of his life Sherry Beadle care for his parents on the family ranch in Conway, Arkansas. Here attending to over 700 pigeons keep them both very busy. English Trumperters, House Pigeons, West of Englands and his favorite the Bokhara Trumpeter are being raised to the strictest show standards. Louisville, Des Monies and the National are annually on their show calandar.
Sherry and Mike both enjoy horses. Sherry’s reputation as a nationally acclaimed Western artist explains her normal dress of jeans, boots, and a variety of western hats. Mike also dresses in the cowboy mode and can easily be picked out at pigeon shows, just look for the handsome bearded cowboy in the big western hat.
Mike has indeed lived a most interesting life. As he enters his sixth decade he plans to become even more active in the pigeon hobby and most certainly his cowboy hat will be found more and more in the winner’s circle.
ABOUT SHERRY….COMING SOON!!!