us all know the story. We"re nearly taught it from the first day the school.

A persistent series of hardships had currently befallen the weary desert dwellers once hoards that insidious insects descended upon their fields. So many were those vindictive tiny demons the they supposedly "covered the challenge of the totality earth, so the the land was darkened," and they ate "every herb the the land" in a mere three days. Fearing the year"s plants would it is in lost, the people"s leaders convened and agreed come pray and ask the mr to remove the spiteful infestation. Thankfully, your prayers had actually been heard: A mighty force stirred from the west, and the pests were brushed up away and disposed the in the nearby sea.

It"s a classic tale indelible to our history. Through now, the story is so firmly engrained in our culture that we"re past the suggest of questioning the origins. It"s come to be an allegory for every times, repeated in perpetuity under the guise of new circumstances.

This canonized legend, that course, is the story of Egypt"s torment of the locusts, made famous in the publication of Exodus.

however here"s one even better story, which Utahns describe as "The miracle of the Gulls":

It begins in 1848, after the Mormons had successfully endured their inaugural winter in the Salt Lake Valley. The fiercely identified band the pioneers had prepared areas of serial the previous autumn so the they would certainly be all set to thrive the adhering to spring. In ~ first, it appeared their savvy farming efforts would certainly be rewarded. But, for this reason the story goes, their luck changed for the worse.

Susa Young Gates, in her 1930 biography of she father, Brigham Young (second chairman of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and first governor the the Utah territory), chronicled this tribulating event in Mormon history:

"Just together the crops were giving promise that a lot needed harvest, swarms the crickets hovered over the ploughed lands choose a devastating army, darkening the planet for miles around, eating off every tongue of grass and also every farming thing."

according to Gates, the pioneers tried everything to journey away the crickets, however to no avail. Eventually they resorted to a "three-day fast and also prayer," which surrendered miraculous results.

"And behold, a miracle! rising from the borders of the lake showed up myriad snow-white gulls. Indigenous whence castle came and also what was their purpose, the pioneers could not determine. Stable upon fields, black with the countless crickets, the gulls seized them and swallowed them together if unable to completely gorge themselves. When their crops were full, the birds would certainly hop over to a ditch, financial institution or convenient hillock and disgorge themselves, and then return again to feeding upon the many crickets. The people stood in awe in ~ this direct answer to your prayer."

Alas, the Mormons were saved by the seagulls" ravenous appetite for (and intermittent repulsion of) cricket meat.

together a result of this and other, comparable accounts the seagull salvation, the California seagull has progressed into a revered Utah symbol. Assorted monuments have been constructed in its honor, including one at temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City. The "sea gull" was embraced as Utah"s main state bird in 1955 through an action of the state Legislature. Salt Lake City also once organized a minor league baseball team nicknamed the "Gulls," until the team relocated to Calgary in 1985 and also became the "Cannons."




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Enrique Limón

Behold, a Seagull Skeptic!

This is a great story. You"re gonna love it.

back in the 1980s, Utah excavator David Madsen would protect against by his father"s residence once in awhile come visit and also chat. His father, famous Utah chronicler Brigham Madsen, to be enjoying the outset the a fairly energetic retirement in ~ this point in his life, quiet immersed in research and various writing projects. One day, the 2 were talking about the seagull story we"ve every heard due to the fact that birth, and also it got the elder Madsen wondering.

"He started looking into it," David recalls, "and that couldn"t uncover hardly any type of written proof that there to be anything favor what was asserted to be this seagull miracle."

While that did come across utterances the cricket infestations from Mormon diarists, Brigham didn"t uncover quite the very same desperation and despair over crickets the the typical, contemporary seagull story describes. Moreover, there was very small evidence the seagulls played a significant role in resolving any kind of cricket problem. Despite there room accounts of seagulls and other birds eating the crickets, numerous journals from the time didn"t even point out seagulls.

however perhaps the biggest problem with the "miracle" is a an extremely practical one. In fact, it"s so simple that ns can"t think it never occurred to me: Crickets are food, too.


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Enrique Limón

"A lot of indigenous American foragers were eating insects the one kind or another," David clues out. "And there"s a whole range of ethnographic and ethnohistorical data on how they to be doing that—how they were catching them, how they to be preparing them, how they to be eating them."

In other words, the initial Salt Lake Valley inhabitants would have actually viewed a cricket intrusion as a bountiful blessing, no a plague. Actually, a cricket harvest would be particularly facile and plentiful contrasted to just about any other food source in the West. Come illustrate, Madsen provides a colorful comparison: "I estimate that if a whale fell out the the sky, you can get much more calories just eating the crickets than you can cutting up the whale."

The Mormons were not uninformed around the insect-foraging tactics of aboriginal Americans. Pioneers from the era commonly detailed the locals" use of insects together a food source, and the much more open-minded and/or realistic pioneers would also partake in a buggy enjoy the meal every now and again. Yet ethnocentric perspectives toward agrarianism strongly affected the early Mormons" reaction come the crickets—one Mormon pioneer described them as appearing to be possessed by "a vindictive small demon." eat bugs to be at ideal a last resort for the picky Mormons, but at least they had actually a nice solid backup plan if their plants did fail.

given all this evidence, the Madsens had discovered an alternate seagull story—one so steady entrenched in history and scientific research that castle were past the suggest of believing the standard tale. So to collection the document straight, they co-wrote one essay titled, "One Man"s Meat Is another Man"s Poison: A Revisionist watch of the Seagull "Miracle,"" and also they sent out it turn off to Utah historic Quarterly for publication.

at first, it appeared their savvy scholastic efforts would certainly be rewarded. But, so the story goes, their luck readjusted for the worse.

"They refuse to publish it," David remembers, "and not since it wasn"t academic or anything, yet because—and ns think this is the quote: "It"s too fun-poking.""

Obviously, the Madsens disagreed. Yet David had actually a hunch regarding why the state"s self-proclaimed "premier history journal" rejected the piece: "I assumption: v it simply ran too counter to the embraced story."

In his 1998 against the Grain: Memoirs the a western Historian, dad Brigham (who passed away in 2010 in ~ the period of 96) go a step additional in speculating why the essay was spurned. "We had an initial submitted this quite serious and scientifically oriented post to the Utah historic Quarterly as a appropriate narrative for Utah readers," the wrote. "But the reviewer, a expert Utah historian and a heavy member the his Mormon faith, disapproved the on the grounds that it would be unreasonable for Mormon readers and also that, besides, the title was an attempt to it is in "cute.""

The Madsens had actually to resort to printing their seagull story in the autumn 1987 version of Nevada Historical culture Quarterly. The publishing ran it as their lead article. In spite of this, there to be no taking place calls come bulldoze the Seagull Monument in holy place Square, and also the "sea gull" was kept as Utah"s main state bird. However, when minor organization baseball went back to Salt Lake City in 1994, the brand-new team exit the nickname "Gulls" and became the "Buzz" instead.




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Enrique Limón

Behold, a Seagull Legend!

Personally, I had never expended the intellectual power to thoroughly question the veracity the the seagull story till recently. I always doubted the spiritual elements of it, as I have tendency to apply due skepticism to any type of claims of miracles and answered prayers. Yet aside native the mythological stuff, the story appeared at the very least plausible, if not totally verifiable.

ns felt reassured because that my ignorance after David admitted he"d skilled a similar deference come the timeless narrative. It wasn"t until he had thoroughly learned the subject once David began to have doubts.

"It was just so pervasive in Utah growing up, in school and wherever else, the you just welcomed it as the truth."

yet the real reality isn"t all that much from fiction. If you live in Utah, critical elements of the much more sensational accounts are apparent in our stays today. Seagulls are anywhere in the Salt Lake Valley, and, yes, they execute eat bugs—although it"s worth discussing that they"ll eat practically anything, up to and including garbage. Apricot of seagulls space a familiar sight in ~ the Salt Lake county Landfill according to Salt Lake ar Sustainability Manager Ashlee Yoder. She approximates somewhere between 500-800 seagulls visit the website daily, lured by the 1,200 loads of new trash bring away there per day.

"Seagulls room a problem at landfills due to the fact that they can interfere with the tools operators" capacity to view clearly," Yoder politely explained to me in an email. She added, "Sorry, ns can"t think of a better way to say lock poop on the windshields, making an excellent visibility difficult."

Yoder sees the trouble of the winged travellers as minor; just an "inconvenience." However, she notes that the food items that attract the seagulls to the landfill might be lessened if Utahns recycled an ext food right into compost. In fact, she said around 65 percent that what us throw away might be recycled.

As far as the crickets go, countless locals are acquainted with the grotesque vision of millions of thumb-sized Mormon crickets (that"s really what they"re called) darkening roadways and also devouring every cultivation thing. The doesn"t occur with much regularity, yet these swarms are recognized to recur every year or so.

It"s just so dang basic to believe in a seagull miracle. By currently the story is so firmly entrenched in our society that we"re previous the point of doubting that cromulence. It"s come to be an allegory for every times, repeated forever under the guise of new events.

Still, it took years for the story to transform into "The wonder of the Gulls." In their essay, the Madsens mark 1853 together a subtle early turning point. That September, throughout the Mormon church"s basic Conference, Apostle Orson Hyde lent authority to insurance claims of magnificent intervention as soon as he claimed of the seagulls, "The hand the Providence ready agents, and also sent lock to destroy the destroyer; a circumstance that was rare, one the was never well-known to exist before, and never because to any extent." It"s worth noting that, by his very own admission, Hyde was in Europe in 1848, no the Salt Lake Valley.

the wasn"t until decades later in 1913 as soon as the Seagull Monument on holy place Square was "erected in grateful remembrance the the mercy that God to the Mormon pioneers," as its plaque informs. Arguably indigenous that minute forward, "The miracle of the Gulls" became a legend for all times, repeated forever.

Behold, a Seagull Folklore!

So widespread is the seagull story the Utah State University"s Merrill-Cazier Library has committed come preserving connected relics in its Fife Folklore Archives. It"s a fascinating repertoire of journal entries, oral histories and also other such items of individual record, with each piece presenting its own distinctive deviations.

A charming 10-verse individual ditty indigenous 1952 areas the seagull story in 1849, yet it sounds favor it would make a attractive tune, regardless:

"Twas sea gulls feathered in angel-white,/ and angels they to be forsooth./ this sea gulls over there by the thousands came/ To fight in an extremely truth./ castle charged under upon the cricket hordes/ and also gorging castle day and night,/ lock routed the damaging foe/ and the crickets were put to flight.

by the way, Mormon crickets don"t fly, and also they"re not even technically crickets; they"re katydids. Also, seagulls carry out eat Mormon crickets, yet when castle disgorge, they"re just upchucking the components they can"t digest.

One 1937 retelling pipeline seagulls out of the seagull miracle altogether. In this version, the feathered snow-white agents are changed by a mighty wind that "blew the insects with such force, against fences and buildings the they place in good heaps." also in this version, the cricket menace rages "for number of years" rather of a solitary growing season.

then there"s the unpreventable habit the rediscovering the seagull story under the guise of brand-new events. Writing around the 1976 Teton Dam overwhelming one year later on in Logan"s Herald Journal, a columnist recalled early stage concerns around an overwhelming mosquito infestation in the region. "Then the gulls came," she said. "No one knew native where, Gunnison Island in the Western good Salt Lake or native the Pacific Ocean? they lighted ~ above ponds and pools and in a week every larvae and also mosquitoes to be gone, and the gulls left—for where? Miracles quiet happen."

A year prior, a 19-year-old mrs was taped as believing recent "invasions by "Mormon Crickets," livestock mutilations, plenty of reports that UFOs and an earthquake" in her hometown the Malad every correlate through biblical end-times. "To me," she added, "the truth speak for themselves."

yet maybe the many bizarre and also off-putting artifact is a joke. There are 15 variations of this joke consisted of in the collection, but it basically goes choose this:

Setup: Why are crows black?

Punchline: since they wouldn"t aid the seagulls eat the crickets.

incidents of this racialism wisecrack seem come come practically entirely indigenous the 1970s, which is right roughly the time the LDS church ended a longtime half on people of color entering the priesthood.