A trip to Salt Lake City isn't really a trip to Salt Lake City if you don't drive past The Seagull Monument and pay homage or whatever it is people do when they see the Seagull Monument. Yesterday when I flew in to SLC, the music producer and his wife and two little boys picked me up at the airport. They insisted upon the requisite drive past the seagull monument. They really wanted me to stand in front of it for a photo op, but I talked them out of it, as I've done SLC a few dozen times. I offered to take their picture standing in front of The Seagull Monument. but it seems that they've done SLC a few times as well.
The monument isn't as historically significant to me as it is to those whose ancestors crossed the plains and were the first white people to settle the territory. In their situations, they wouldn't exist, or at least most likely not in their present forms, had the seagulls not come along and eaten the locusts that were destroying the first year's crop. Without the success of that first crop, most likely many or all the settlers would have starved to death. This was the mid 1800's. There were no airplanes or helicopters to airlift food to the Salt Lake Valley's settlers. Even had they gotten word to the people on either coast in a timely manner, it wouldn't have been easy to find a large enough group to tote sufficient food across either the Great Plains and Rockies or the Sierra Nevada in time to save everyone. From the east coast, the distance was great, and the Mormons hadn't made themselves terribly popular. From the west coast, there weren't all that many prospeous people at the time -- people there were barely eking out a living looking for gold -- and even on that coast the Mormons had made a few enemies. Had those locusts finished off the crop, the ancestors of many people I know today would have perished in the famine that surely would have ensued.
The women and children first, later joined by the men, were out in the fields, beating away the locusts, or "Mormon crickets," as they're commonly called, but were fighting a losing battle. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, came huge flocks of hungry seagulls. Those seagulls ate the locusts in droves, reportedly then flying off in the distance to empty the contents of their stomachs so that they could come back to eat more. It seems that bulimia isn't limited to the human species.
It's hard to believe that, seagulls or not, the territory that is now called Utah would not have eventually been settled by Caucasians, but it very likely wouldn't be the unique place that it is today. Some say this would have been a good thing. I, myself, appreciate diversity even if it's occasionally of what I would consider a backward and perhaps slightly bigoted variety. Furthermore, without the intervention of the seagulls, thousands of children would have perished of hunger. I don't know if I've ever seen a truly hungry child in real life*, or at least I didn't know it when I saw him or her, though I see them all the time on TV commercials imploring us to support various causes, and I've seen many of them in pictures. A starvingly-hungry child, no matter whose child he or she is, or where he or she lives, or when it happened that the child was or is hungry, is a horrible, horrible thing. Even if a person strongly disagrees with the tenets of Mormonism, how could a person with a heart not feel grateful that so many children were spared terrible deaths by starvation?
Way to go, seagulls! You did a great thing.
* I've been a hungry child, but that was another story told long ago.