14 December 2011

Gulls Salvation for Salt Lake Settlers

By St. Croix.

There is no biped for which the old farmer of this country has more genuine affection than for the utterly valueless — in a marketable sense — sea gull. This rather pretty bird was quite abundant in this valley the present year — in fact, it is stated that only once before were there so many. In the fields a few miles below the city, a week or two ago, thousands of them could be seen. They followed the plowman along the furrow, and were almost as tame as chickens. Wherever there was a newly-plowed field, there you could see the gull, and as fast as a furrow was turned up the birds would fly behind the plowman and commence devouring the insects which were thus exposed to sight. They seemed perfectly fearless. And they have good reason to be fearless here, for the farmer looks upon them as his friend, and they seem to understand fully that he holds them in that light. They fly all about him, within two or three feet, and while perhaps unwilling to submit to being caught, they will allow any other familiarity that can be practiced, for they themselves take a great many good-natured liberties. They will not touch grain, or anything that the farmer desires should remain untouched; they only eat the worms and insects which are injurious to the soil and to crops. Years ago a law was passed making it an offense to kill one of these birds. The law is probably yet on the statute books, but is literally a dead letter, because there has been no occasion to call the law into life. A farmer — in fact any person acquainted with the habits of the sea gull — would almost think of wantonly killing one of his own chickens, as of intentionally harming one of these queer birds. As before stated, a law was passed by the legislature making it an offense to kill a sea gull; it was passed for this reason:

In the second year after the Pioneers had arrived here — in 1848 — the large black crickets, common to these mountainous regions, made their appearance in this and some other valleys, in clouds — figuratively speaking. They did not fly; but came hopping down the mountain sides in myriads. So vast were their numbers the mountains were black and seemed literally alive with the great, big, black, ugly things, each one about the size of a large man's thumb. It was at a time when the crops were promising; everything looked green; the future outlook seemed bright; and the heart of the sun-burned and toil-worn pioneer grew lighter s the prospects of a plentiful harvest and greater comforts grew more and more tangible with each day's growth of the healthy grain. But blacker than the clouds of coal black crickets, which came hopping down the mountain slopes in countless numbers, leaving barrenness and desolation in their wake, were the clouds of despair which filled the heart of the weary husbandman as this new and unlooked-for curse came slowly but surely towards the pride, the joy and the promise of the early settler — his fields of waving corn and grain. the foe was utterly unconquerable so far as human as human efforts were concerned; there was nothing the heartsick farmer could do but stand idly by and see the labors of the season destroyed; and with it, the death of the bright hopes which had seemed so near a realization but a few hours before. On came the foe! and as it approached, came also a vague sense of the almost illimitable distance between the farmer and a mart where could be obtained seed with which to lay the foundation for another harvest; for all he had was barely enough on which to subsist till the grain could be reaped; and as he thought of this, he thought of the long and severe winter to follow, which became terrible now, since, to the intense cold, would be added the insatiable pangs of hunger. Were it men alone who would suffer, he could bear it; but to think of the children who must yearn for bread which could not be given them; of the mother, whose babe would be folded to a breast that could afford no nourishment. It was indeed terrible! And yet, but a few hours before, what a glorious prospect was laid out! Still the foe came on. The green fields were reached, the work of destruction had commenced. Children gazed with wonder and terror; women looked with eyes full of tears, and strong men watched with hearts of despair. It was an awful hour. But lo! a wonder! The sky is filled with large birds; they fly towards the scene of the disaster, and they alight in the same fields where the crickets hold supreme sway. Then comes a change. At once the flocks of birds begin to eat the crickets. From morn till night they continue, never ceasing. When filled until they can hold no more, they vomit up the black mass, and again commence to eat the crickets. This is kept up day after day until not one of the devouring host is seen; the crops are saved; and the birds fly away. This bird was the one which could recently be seen in the fields, and which was then more abundant than at any time since the event above mentioned.

Whether the hand of an All-wise Providence was in it or not, it was not surprising nor unreasonable that the pioneers should think so; that they should return thanks to God for his succor, and that forever after the sea-gull should be looked upon by the farmer as a dear friend to be protected and encouraged. It was the sea gull that befriended the pioneer — the pioneer who suffered and endured so much, and whose suffering and endurance has made this place so that it can be inhabited, so that it furnishes a peaceful and a prosperous home to many a vile ingrate, whose thanks are shown in falsehoods and lies, in blaspheming and in blackguarding the pioneer and his offspring.

St. Croix. May 25, 1882. Sea gulls. Salt Lake Daily Herald 12(301): 10.