Come fall, all the teens are taken out of school to help with the Passenger Pigeon hunt. It starts with a Monday morning parade down Elm Street. Normally, everyone would be at work, but it’s “pigeon season,” as they say, so they’re all out, ready for the week of hunting to begin. There’s excitement in the air as people get ready to shoot a healthy load of birds for eating in the winter. People dressed up as Passenger Pigeons lead the parade, bands play, meat roasts, and teenagers sneak off to drink or make out in the cool autumn air.

Of course, the hunting isn’t a breeze. “Not easy work,” you might hear one local say to another, “but it’ll be worth it when the winter hits.”

“I didn’t see the point in missing school last year,” Lucy Brown said to me as I visited her family one fall. “But once I went out there with my dad and we caught a whole bunch of pigeons, I can totally see what it’s all about.”

Some don’t participate in the pigeon harvest because, well, there aren’t any more Passenger Pigeons, and there haven’t been in over 100 years. These folk generally stay away from the festivities and go about work as always, which annoys everyone else to no end. They’re seen as grouches and party-poopers, even un-American. For the rest of the town, the lack of pigeons means that hunters have to shoot other birds or animals, all of which for a week are called “passenger pigeons.” So one might gloat, “I shot a half-dozen large pigeons,” meaning rabbits.

Others go out just before dawn and hide frozen chickens and turkeys to be found like an Easter egg hunt before they go bad in the sun. Some have even taken to leaving the frozen poultry in coolers. To those who find these coolers, they might brag to their friends that they shot a whole “kit.”

But even with freezers full of rabbits, turkeys, refrozen chickens, or even potatoes, everyone loves to talk about how thankful they are to live in prosperous times just like their great-grandfathers. They then spend the cold winter regaling each other with the tales of the hunt.