I stepped up into the coop and closed the door behind me. Thirty pairs of small eyes looked curiously down from the rafters. “Who would like to fly today? I asked. I got no response, just a continued quiet stare.

I turned around to set my large wicker basket down on the coop’s straw-covered floor, and then I stood up straight, surveying my pure white flock. I quickly picked out one of my oldest birds, a large male with a blue band. I reached up, holding one hand in front of his face to keep him from flying and gently lay my other hand across his back. He hunkered down, as I had hoped he would. I placed my forward hand under his belly and lifted him up, my thumbs holding his wings close to his body. He felt strong and healthy. This would be a good day for him to fly.

The blue band around this fellow’s ankle told me that he was one of our very first white birds, and well over 10 years old. I knew that he was an experienced distance flier. I always fly at least one experienced bird with one or two younger birds on cross-country flights. This way I know that the experienced fliers will lead the younger birds back home to the creek.

I opened one of the basket’s flaps and carefully set my bird inside. I closed the lid. Now, if you can imagine Toto’s basket in "The Wizard of Oz," you know exactly what my pigeon basket looks like. My pigeon basket, is however, quite a bit larger.

I stood back up, and again scanned the rafters. I used the same capture technique to place three more younger birds in the basket, and then I picked up my pigeon carrier, feeling the weight of the four feathered creatures within. I opened the coop door, and stepped back out onto the grass. With the main door securely latched, I opened the coop’s flight door, and within an instant, I could feel the wind from multiple pairs of white wings blowing the hair back from my forehead. They flew past me, and out into the creek valley beyond.

There is something about their flight that always leaves me transfixed. I simply stood there and watched as the flock took off in an ever-widening circle, high over the valley, but I did not stay for long. I knew that it was time for me, and my four basketed birds, to get going. Greg and I were heading off to the wedding of some dear friends up by the lake.

The ceremony was country perfect. Our friends exchanged their vows under a beautiful wooden arbor in the middle of another friend’s lovely garden. The sky overhead was bright blue, the clouds a pure billowing white, and as our friends turned from their first kiss as a married couple, I stepped forward to let my white birds fly.

I set the basket down on a tall wooden stool and undid the straps. I opened one flap wide and reached my hand under the other flap to encourage the birds to take flight, but I really doubted that they needed any encouragement. They are homers after all. They burst out of the basket in a flurry of white wings, turned to their left and headed off into the blue sky, heading back to the creek as only homing pigeons are known to do. Our friends walked down the grassy aisle, hand in hand, as our birds, wing to wing, flew back to the creek.

I don’t know why it is, but my heart soars whenever I watch our white birds fly; though honestly, I know that these beautiful white creatures are really not “our” birds. They are free birds, who just happen to call our creek valley home. We may well have brought them here, and they certainly enjoy the scratch grain we scatter, but they fly out of the coop and over the valley fields whenever they wish. We might close the coop each evening to keep out predators, but they are free, as free as our friends to find love and adventure in the world beyond.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.