Once, on a fishing trip to Rockport, I saw a couple of teenagers harrassing some seagulls in the HEB parking lot. They were in a pickup, and while one held a long French fry out the window, the other drove along just fast enough to stay ahead of a bunch of birds, who were all trying to catch up and grab the fry.
That was pretty funny, and the more time I spend at the coast, the more sense it makes. Seagulls are protected, so you can’t shoot them, even when they deserve it, which is often. If I ever get a chance to annoy some of them, like those kids in the pickup, I’m taking it.
You may find that rude and cruel, but seagulls are the reprobates of the bird kingdom. They’ve learned they have nothing to fear from humans, and they take advantage at every opportunity. They steal bait, they snatch caps off people’s heads, they even grab sandwiches and ice cream cones out of people’s hands if they get the chance. And then they fly off, laughing like Peter Lorre, knowing we have no recourse. They’re winged thieves with bad attitudes.
A seagull named Sam, who lives in Aberdeen, Scotland, hangs around a local store, and when customers open the door he slips in and grabs a bag of spicy Doritos. He shares the chips with other birds outside, and then comes back and does it again. He never, ever, offers to pay for them.
Some of the locals think that’s cute, so they foot the bill for Sam’s Dorito heists. But the victims elsewhere are not fooled. In Devon, council members have to wear helmets when they make their daily collection of data from weather montiors on the roofs of council buildings, because the seagulls attack them. One victim, David Potter (no relation to Harry), said, “It can be really bad and it’s getting worse. It’s my fourth year doing the job and there are more and more gulls. The big gulls swoop at my head and are backed up by half a dozen others which scream and dive-bomb me.”
And parliament does nothing.
Schools and day care centers have had to take drastic measures to protect their kids from the viscious birds. They’ve cancelled outdoor play times, and children can’t eat lunch outside because the gulls steal their food. Shopping centers have had to put up signs warning patrons about the situation, and some shops have lost money because people avoid eating where the birds are the most numerous and aggressive.
Still, it’s hard for some people to blame the seagulls, since they’re only trying to make a living in a repressed economy, just like the rest of us. Even people who have been around them a lot, such as my friend, Joey Ingracia, are sometimes fooled by the docile veneer they exhibit when they aren’t being their normal, thieving selves.
Joey was in Corpus Christi a while back, and went to a café to eat before he came home. He pulled into a parking space in front of the restaurant, and noticed a seagull standing in the empty space next to him. The bird never moved, even when Joey got out of the car and slammed the door, a few feet away.
So Joey and a friend went in to eat, and Joey remarked that, if the bird was still there when they came out, he was going to see if he could catch it and take it home. Half an hour later the gull was still there.
Joey reached down and petted it, and it just stood there. So he picked it up and put it on his door mirror, and it just stood there. So he picked it up and put it on his console, between the front seats, and it just stood there.
Well. So far, so good.
So Joey and his friend pulled out and started to come home. The seagull seemed perfectly content to stand on the console, as if he rode around in cars with people every day. They made their way to the main highway, and everything was fine.
But, as Jim Stafford said in ‘Wildwood Flower,’ all good things have to come to an end. Once Joey got the car up to 55 miles per hour, it was like a switch flipped, or something. The seagull came alive. And went nuts.
It started squawking and flapping and trying to get out of the car. Joey was fighting it and swerving all over the road, trying not to have a wreck. His friend was trying to catch the bird, but finally gave up and opened the passenger door, while still on the highway, to try to get the gull to go out.
It’s a wonder they didn’t have a bad accident, but somehow they avoided the other cars on the road. They were finally able to get the bird to exit the car, leaving behind two excited guys and a bunch of loose feathers.
There’s a moral here somewhere. If anyone figures it out, please drop me a note and tell me what it is.
All I know is that I’m never, ever, trusting a bird again . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who has never shot a seagull. Yet. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org