[PIGEONS, INDIA, WORLD WAR I]
MUKERJI, Dhan Gopal, Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon. Illustrated by Boris Artzybasheff. London and Toronto J. M. Dent & Son, Ltd. [n.d.] (1928).
FIRST UK EDITION. (210 x 150 mm) pp. 197. With illustrated frontispiece and 3 double page illustrations and many other ornamented initials, head- and tail-pieces throughout. Two children’s handwriting on half-title “Do not read the last two pages where Gay Neck lived.” And “Elsie H. Goscombe Xmas 1928”. Dark blue cloth binding with lighter blue stamp of pigeon and title. Infrequent foxing; has a lean. Overall VERY GOOD to NEAR FINE.
Pigeons are so important. Pigeons with cameras were one of the first methods of aerial photography. During WWI, camera-carrying pigeons and homing pigeons helped the Allies win the war. Some of the absolute terrors these birds went through to deliver their messages and intel are just amazing. Gay-Neck is the story of one of the hero-pigeons.
“Gay-Neck, or Chitra-Griva, is born to a young owner in India. Gay-Neck's parents teach him how to fly, but he soon loses his father in a storm and his mother to a hawk. His master and Ghond the hunter take him out into the wilderness, but he becomes so scared by the hawks that he flees and ends up in a lamasery where the Buddhist monks are able to cure him of his fear. When his young master returns home he finds Gay-Neck waiting for him. But Gay-Neck decides to go on other long journeys, much to the boy's consternation. Then, during World War I, Gay-Neck and Ghond end up journeying to Europe where Gay-Neck serves as a messenger pigeon. He is chased by German machine-eagles (planes) and is severely traumatized when one of his fellow messenger pigeons is shot down. Gay-Neck and Ghond barely survive, and Gay-Neck is unable to fly. Ghond, Gay-Neck, and his master return to the lamasery near Singalila, where Ghond and Gay-Neck need to be cleansed of the hate and fear of the war. After that, Ghond succeeds in hunting down a buffalo that killed a villager, but feels remorse for having to kill the buffalo. Gay-Neck disappears once more, but when the other two return home, they find, to their joy, that Gay-Neck had already flown there ahead of them.”
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