Neither Billy nor Steven, his sister's cocky, soccer-playing fiance, understands why Dad prefers to keep pigeons when pigs or more chickens would bring in some extra cash. Then Steven, always a petty teaser, breaks his leg in a mine accident and begins to change his attitude, teaching Billy the fine points of checkers and even admitting that he's not the world's greatest athlete. Steven's turnabout is explained when he announces his decision to have a pigeon cote of his own--trapped underground he had ""thought it would be nice to see them like that, flying free."" Billy remains reserved; he appreciates the change in Steven without judging him one way or the other. And it's his quiet, lucid observations that give the incident an aura of warmth and the weight of home truth.