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DEAR ABBY: I read in a recent column about the Midland (Texas) Community Spirit Award honoring American communities for distinguished caring service.

While it is fitting that truly good people should be honored, may I suggest a different award -- for the community that most shames America by its total lack of decency and humaneness. I nominate Hegins, Pa.

Every Labor Day, this little town invites its citizens to a family outing that features a live pigeon shoot.

As the pigeons (which have been confined in small boxes) are released, and the disoriented birds attempt to achieve flight, they are shot down by the town's "sportsmen." The birds that are not killed instantly -- but merely wounded -- then have their necks twisted and broken by young boys trained for this occasion.

Their slogan this year was "Shoot pigeons -- not drugs!" (As though the only sensible alternative to shooting drugs is shooting pigeons.)

Let's hope public awareness and outrage at this unbelievable cruelty will finally bring an end to this "sport," which the Pennsylvania legislature has refused to stop. -- ASHAMED IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR ASHAMED: I hope so, too, but don't bet on it. In 1986, I wrote to then-Gov. Dick Thornburgh (who was until recently U.S. attorney general), asking him to please put an end to this shameful sport. He shot me down with a courteous letter defending the live pigeon shoot as a time-honored tradition.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been married for 35 years. We are both over 60 and have a good marriage, except for one thing -- he is much more interested in sex than I am. When I turn him down, he gets upset and accuses me of not loving him. Abby, I do love him, and this is the only thing we disagree about.

I would like to know more about saltpeter. I know it can be purchased in a drugstore, but does a person have to have a prescription to buy it? Does it have any side effects other than the one wanted? Also, can it be slipped into food or drink without detection?

I would appreciate a speedy reply. -- TIRED IN UTAH

DEAR TIRED: I consulted my friendly neighborhood pharmacist, Dave Powells. He said, "Saltpeter, also know as 'potassium nitrate,' can be purchased over the counter without a prescription, but it should not be slipped into food or drink because it can cause violent gastroenteritis. It could raise one's blood pressure to a dangerous level. Also, prolonged exposure to saltpeter may produce anemia, nephritis (kidney disease) or methemoglobinemia (blood disorder). A cold shower might cool the husband's ardor."

DEAR ABBY: For the grandma who loaned her grandson $500 and is having a hard time collecting any part of it: Write him a note at Christmastime and say, "In lieu of a Christmas gift, I am subtracting $100 from the $500 you owe." It works for me. -- N.M. IN PALM SPRINGS, FLA.

Most teen-agers do not know the facts about drugs, AIDS and how to prevent unwanted pregnancy. It's all in Abby's updated, expanded booklet, "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

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