we all know the story. We"re almost taught it from the first day the school.

A persistent series of hardships had already befallen the weary desert dwellers as soon as hoards the insidious insects lower upon your fields. So numerous were those vindictive tiny demons that they reportedly "covered the face of the whole earth, so the the land to be darkened," and also they ate "every herb that the land" in a mere 3 days. Fearing the year"s crops would be lost, the people"s leaders convened and also agreed to pray and also ask the mr to eliminate the spiteful infestation. Thankfully, their prayers had actually been heard: A mighty pressure stirred from the west, and the pests were swept away and also disposed of in the adjacent sea.

It"s a classic tale indelible come our history. By now, the story is so firmly engrained in our culture that we"re previous the suggest of questioning that origins. It"s end up being an allegory for every times, repetitive in perpetuity under the guise of new circumstances.

This canonized legend, that course, is the tale of Egypt"s afflict of the locusts, made famous in the book of Exodus.

but here"s one even much better story, i beg your pardon Utahns describe as "The miracle of the Gulls":

It begins in 1848, after ~ the Mormons had successfully endured your inaugural winter in the Salt Lake Valley. The fiercely determined band the pioneers had actually prepared areas of grain the previous autumn so the they would be prepared to prosper the complying with spring. At first, it appeared their savvy agricultural efforts would be rewarded. But, therefore the story goes, their luck adjusted for the worse.

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

"Just together the crops were offering promise the a much needed harvest, swarms that crickets hovered over the ploughed lands favor a damaging army, darkening the planet for mile around, eating turn off every tongue of grass and every growing thing."

according to Gates, the pioneers tried everything to drive away the crickets, however to no avail. At some point they resorted to a "three-day fast and prayer," which succumbed miraculous results.

"And behold, a miracle! climbing from the boundaries of the lake appeared myriad snow-white gulls. From whence lock came and also what was their purpose, the pioneers might not determine. Settling upon fields, black through the countless crickets, the gulls seized them and swallowed them as if unable to fully gorge themselves. When their crops were full, the birds would certainly hop end to a ditch, bank or practically hillock and disgorge themselves, and also then return again to feed upon the plenty of crickets. The people stood in awe at this direct answer to their prayer."

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

as a an outcome of this and also other, comparable accounts of seagull salvation, the California seagull has advanced into a revered Utah symbol. Assorted monuments have been constructed in the honor, consisting of one at holy place Square in downtown Salt Lake City. The "sea gull" was adopted as Utah"s official state bird in 1955 v an action of the state Legislature. Salt Lake City even once hosted a minor organization baseball team nicknamed the "Gulls," until the team moved to Calgary in 1985 and became the "Cannons."

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Enrique Limón

Behold, a Seagull Skeptic!

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

ago in the 1980s, Utah excavator David Madsen would avoid by his father"s home once in awhile to visit and chat. His father, famous Utah chronicler Brigham Madsen, to be enjoying the outset that a relatively energetic retirement at this point in his life, tho immersed in research and also various composing projects. One day, the 2 were talking about the seagull story we"ve all heard due to the fact that birth, and also it obtained the elder Madsen wondering.

"He began looking right into it," David recalls, "and that couldn"t find hardly any kind of written proof that there to be anything like what was claimed to be this seagull miracle."

While that did come across utterances that cricket infestations from Mormon diarists, Brigham didn"t uncover quite the exact same desperation and also despair over crickets the the typical, modern-day seagull story describes. Moreover, there to be very small evidence that seagulls played a far-reaching role in resolving any type of cricket problem. Though there space accounts of seagulls and other birds eating the crickets, plenty of journals from the moment didn"t even mention seagulls.

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

Enrique Limón

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

In various other words, the initial Salt Lake Valley citizens would have actually viewed a cricket invasion as a bountiful blessing, no a plague. Actually, a cricket harvest would certainly be specifically facile and plentiful compared to just around any other food source in the West. Come illustrate, Madsen offers a vibrant comparison: "I calculation that if a whale fell out of the sky, you can get more calories simply eating the crickets 보다 you could cutting up that whale."

The Mormons were no uninformed around the insect-foraging methods of native Americans. Pioneers from that era commonly listed the locals" usage of insects together a food source, and also the more open-minded and/or pragmatic pioneers would even partake in a buggy enjoy the meal every now and again. But ethnocentric attitudes toward agrarianism strongly affected the at an early stage Mormons" reaction to the crickets—one Mormon pioneer described them as appearing to be own by "a vindictive little demon." eating bugs to be at best a last resort for the stroller, stick Mormons, however at the very least they had a nice solid backup arrangement if their crops did fail.

given all this evidence, the Madsens had found an alternate seagull story—one so steady entrenched in background and scientific research that lock were past the point of believing the classic tale. Therefore to collection the record straight, castle co-wrote an essay titled, "One Man"s Meat Is one more Man"s Poison: A Revisionist see of the Seagull "Miracle,"" and they sent out it off to Utah historical Quarterly for publication.

at first, it showed up their savvy scholastic efforts would 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, but because—and i 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" garbage the piece: "I guess it simply ran too respond to to the welcomed story."

In his 1998 versus the Grain: Memoirs the a west Historian, dad Brigham (who passed away in 2010 in ~ the age of 96) walk a step more in speculating why the essay was spurned. "We had an initial submitted this rather serious and also scientifically oriented write-up to the Utah historic Quarterly together a relevant narrative for Utah readers," the wrote. "But the reviewer, a skilled Utah historian and a solid member the his Mormon faith, disapproved that on the grounds the it would certainly be inappropriate for Mormon readers and also that, besides, the title was an attempt to be "cute.""

The Madsens had actually to resort to printing their seagull story in the loss 1987 version of Nevada Historical society Quarterly. The publishing ran it as their lead article. Regardless of this, there to be no taking place calls come bulldoze the Seagull Monument in temple Square, and also the "sea gull" was retained as Utah"s official state bird. However, when minor organization baseball went back to Salt Lake City in 1994, the 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 inquiry the veracity the the seagull story till recently. I constantly doubted the spiritual elements of it, as I have tendency to apply due apprehension to any type of claims that miracles and also answered prayers. However aside indigenous the supernatural stuff, the story appeared at least plausible, if not completely verifiable.

ns felt reassured because that my ignorance after David admitted he"d knowledgeable a comparable deference come the traditional narrative. That wasn"t until he had thoroughly learned the subject as soon as David started to have doubts.

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

yet the real truth isn"t every that far from fiction. If girlfriend live in Utah, an important elements that the much more sensational accounts are evident in our lives today. Seagulls are all over in the Salt Lake Valley, and, yes, they do eat bugs—although it"s worth stating that they"ll eat practically anything, increase to and also including garbage. Apricot of seagulls are a familiar sight at the Salt Lake ar Landfill follow to Salt Lake county Sustainability Manager Ashlee Yoder. She approximates somewhere between 500-800 seagulls visit the website daily, lured by the 1,200 loads of new trash taken there every day.

"Seagulls space a trouble at landfills since they can interfere through the devices operators" ability to check out clearly," Yoder politely defined to me in one email. She added, "Sorry, i can"t think the a much better way come say lock poop top top the windshields, making great visibility difficult."

Yoder watch the difficulty of the winged tourists as minor; just an "inconvenience." However, she notes that the food item that draw the seagulls come the landfill can be lessened if Utahns recycled more food into compost. In fact, she said around 65 percent of what we throw away could be recycled.

As far as the crickets go, numerous locals are acquainted with the grotesque sight of numerous thumb-sized Mormon crickets (that"s really what they"re called) darkening roadways and also devouring every farming thing. That doesn"t happen with lot regularity, but these swarms are known to recur every year or so.

It"s simply so dang straightforward to believe in a seagull miracle. By now the story is so steady entrenched in our culture that we"re past the allude of doubting that is cromulence. It"s come to be an allegory for every times, recurring forever under the guise of brand-new events.

Still, it took years because that the story come transform right into "The wonder of the Gulls." In their essay, the Madsens note 1853 together a ethereal early turning point. The September, throughout the Mormon church"s general Conference, Apostle Orson Hyde lent authority to claims of divine intervention as soon as he said of the seagulls, "The hand the Providence prepared agents, and also sent castle to ruin the destroyer; a circumstance that was rare, one the was never recognized to exist before, and also never since to any kind of extent." It"s worth noting that, through his very own admission, Hyde was in Europe in 1848, not the Salt Lake Valley.

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

Behold, a Seagull Folklore!

So common is the seagull story that Utah State University"s Merrill-Cazier Library has actually committed come preserving linked relics in that Fife Folklore Archives. It"s a fascinating collection of journal entries, dental histories and also other together items of people record, with each item presenting that own unique deviations.

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

"Twas sea gulls feathered in angel-white,/ and angels they were forsooth./ these sea gulls there by the thousands came/ To battle in very truth./ they charged down upon the cricket hordes/ and gorging lock day and also night,/ castle routed the destructive foe/ and the crickets were put to flight.

by the way, Mormon crickets don"t fly, and they"re not also technically crickets; they"re katydids. Also, seagulls carry out eat Mormon crickets, however when they disgorge, they"re only upchucking the parts they can"t digest.

One 1937 retelling leaves seagulls the end of the seagull miracle altogether. In this version, the feathered snow-white agents are replaced by a mighty wind that "blew the insects with such force, versus fences and buildings that they place in an excellent heaps." also in this version, the cricket menace rages "for several years" instead of a single growing season.

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

A year prior, a 19-year-old woman was videotaped as believing recent "invasions by "Mormon Crickets," cattle mutilations, numerous reports the UFOs and an earthquake" in she hometown of Malad every correlate with biblical end-times. "To me," she added, "the facts speak because that themselves."

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

Setup: Why space crows black?

Punchline: due to the fact that they wouldn"t assist the seagulls eat the crickets.

cases of this racist wisecrack seem come come practically entirely native the 1970s, which is right approximately the time the LDS church ended a longtime half on world of color entering the priesthood.