Sunday, May 04, 2008

Dump Ducks

We were on our way down Cadillac Mountain, Bar Harbor, when the bus driver mentioned sea gulls. “We call them ‘dump ducks,’ he said.

True enough, I suppose. Find a dump, find dozens -- perhaps hundreds -- of sea gulls. They work it over pretty well, picking away at whatever looks good to them.

At home, we thought of them as weather prognosticators. The first person to come home on the road down from Stratford, past the airport, might say, “Seagulls on the runway,” which was a sure sign of weather coming. If the gulls stayed put when small planes landed, a storm was imminent; perhaps we were in for a good one.

They were also the lowest-flying birds you would ever want to see. They skimmed over the calm water so close you’d think their wings would touch the surface. But they stayed just, and I mean just, above it. I understood it was easier for them to fly at the lowest altitude, and the ease with which they flew down there seemed to show this.

Seagulls also followed my father’s fishing boat. Being as how he was a nice guy, he would chop off a fish’s head and throw it up in the air; one of the following gulls would dive down and grab it, practically still on its way up. Then he’d chop off the tail; same toss and another gull would fall out of position and it disappeared. At the shore diner, I’d grab someone’s leftover fries and whistle up the gulls out on the beach. Standing with my back to the wind, the gulls would hold their flight into it and I’d toss the eats to them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dump Ducks, eh? They also go under other names too.

At the shipyard we'd flip them leftovers and every once in awhile, we'd lace a piece of bread with Tobasco Sauce. Talk about a gull who suddenly lost its appetite and began tending to its thirst.


May 06, 2008 6:35 AM  
Anonymous ruthc said...

Leftover fries ?????

May 06, 2008 10:48 AM  
Blogger Tom Carten said...

When I'd leave the diner, sometimes I'd pass a table where people had left and there were french fries on their plate. So I'd scoop them up and go outside on the beach.

I would put my back to the wind and whistle for the gulls. They would come toward me and fly just hard enough so they would have zero ground speed.

The gulls would hang there in the air and I would toss a french fry to one of them. It would break ranks, grab the fry as it went up, and fall out of formation. Then I would do a toss to another gull; same thing. I'd do this until I ran out of fries.

May 06, 2008 11:39 AM  
Anonymous ruthc said...

Oh, I knew what you meant. I just cannot envision leaving uneaten fries on my plate.

May 06, 2008 2:02 PM  
Blogger Tom Carten said...

There are starving children in China and there are starving seagulls in Lordship CT.

You have to make painful choices.

May 06, 2008 2:57 PM  

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