FOR THE BIRDS
Pigeon shooting has been a big thing in Monte Carlo since it was introduced, in 1872, by Prince Charles III of Monaco, who cannily noted that it was a "privileged pastime" and likely to attract the gentry. It has. Wealthy, titled and professional gunners throng into Monaco annually for the pigeon matches in February and March. Pigeon shooting, Monaco style, is, in effect, trap shooting with live birds and is held on a walled, curving range between the Casino and the Mediterranean; the shooter pays 500 francs for a pigeon, which is released from a box set 20 or 30 yards away from him, and bangs away as the feathered target flies up.
Since the object is to kill as many birds, consecutively, as possible, the sport is rough on the pigeons. Twenty thousand of them (trapped nightly during the season in the mountains of Spain) are knocked off each season—although a few wise birds have sense enough to walk, not fly, when released and are thus able to bustle out of range unharmed. Although his own kinsman started it all, all this seems to have weighed heavily upon the mind of Prince Rainier III. "The best wedding gift you can give me," he wrote in response to a letter from Aristoteles Socrates Onassis, the Greek financier who controls the gambling casino, "is to stop the sport of pigeon shooting in Monte Carlo."
Onassis has agreed—although he hedged a little in accepting full responsibility for the act last week after the Prince and Grace had sailed off on their honeymoon. "Rainier didn't ask me to stop pigeon shooting," Onassis said. "He asked the Soci�t�s des Bains de Mer. I'm only a stockholder. But he's our little sovereign and we'll please him. We'll lose money but we can afford it."
The coxswain knits his brow
And pushes off from shore;
Too late to tell him now
The stroke forgot his oar.
—IRWIN L. STEIN