The Pigeon Pie Episode
By Ron Page
Reynolds Church and its parsonage lie far out in farm country surrounded by a flat and featureless plain – black soil in the spring, tall green corn in the summer, turning to brown stalks before harvest in the fall, and often white with snow in the winter. Situated 80 miles straight west of Chicago, it fails to benefit from the tempering effect of Lake Michigan, leaving it somewhat warmer in the summer and colder in the winter than Chicago.
Very little has changed about Reynolds Church since its construction in 1872 and the 1950’s when it was the center of my spiritual and social life. The congregation consisted largely of German farm families two generations removed from the old country. The pastor and his family, however, were transplants from the city. For three summers, I was employed to mow the lawn that surrounded the church. The lawn extended to a park-like area between the church and the parsonage and, finally, around the parsonage itself. A large outhouse with a male-female side, a long, low buggy shed, and many huge trees added to the challenge and time required to complete my mowing.
All that mowing, along with the fact that the preacher’s son was my classmate and companion, gave me special, behind-the-scenes, insight into life at the parsonage. Who else regularly entered the home of our pastor to enjoy a glass of lemonade or a meal with the family? This brings me to the Pigeon Pie Episode:
The Reynolds Church belfry was home to an ever-expanding family of pigeons who hosted squadrons of visiting pigeons. They caused all sorts of havoc inside the belfry and out. When farmers could no longer stand on the front steps after church to discuss their crops without having their Sunday-best pin-striped suits splattered by pigeons who thought that area was a pigeon latrine, the decision was made to go to war with the pigeons.
The date was set, the farmers oiled up their shotguns, and the war was on. The farmers won. Now – what to do with all those dead pigeons? Farmers are accustomed to eating what they kill. Some of the ladies of the church (ladies with surnames of Becker, Wagner, Warner, Voss, Reif, Kersten, Vaupel and Henert) had the perfect plan – a plan that solved the “pile-of-dead-pigeons” problem while including a truly “Service Above Self” motive. They would bake the pigeons into a dozen pigeon pies and surprise the pastor’s wife with this wonderful gift, well worth the many hours involved in dressing and baking the pigeons.
During the week following the pie presentation, I made one of my customary visits to the parsonage and was eager to hear about the pigeon pies and thought I might have the opportunity to see or taste one. The pastor’s wife informed me the pies were very special to them and the pies occupied a very special place in her deep freeze for serving later at a very special occasion.
A week later, and a week later after that, I posed the same question to the pastor’s wife, “Have you tried the pigeon pies?”. She continued to explain they were very special and would be served sometime in the future.”. I changed my frequency of asking to monthly, then bi-monthly, then annually. As far as I know, an occasion worthy of serving the pigeon pies never occurred during that pastor’s tenure and I suspect they remained in the freezer for the incoming pastor’s family. If that is true, then I wonder if the pigeon pies were passed down again and again and, just possibly, might still be lurking deep in the bottom of the parsonage freezer these 65 years later. I might get to taste one yet!!!
There is a moral to be found, I think, in this event: If your service project includes baking pigeon pies, you might want to check with the service recipient first.