Monday, July 31, 2006

Acrobats of the air...
Why would anyone want to hurt them?

Today in City Park, there was a gentleman sitting on one of the benches near the seawall who was feeding the seagulls. The gulls normally keep as far away from people as they can, but in this case, there were dozens perched on the seawall; after all, there were pieces of bread on top of the wall as well as on the concrete in front of the seawall. Other gulls were exploring the beach in that general area. Also in that general area, three teenage boys were swimming and goofing around in the water. They came up onto the sand and began throwing sand at the seagulls. Chalk it up to that old "peer pressure mentality", I guess. One of them picked up a big rock, heaved it at one of the seagulls and HIT IT. The gull, dazed, went down to the shoreline and just sat motionless on the beach, stunned. The boys then went up to that seagull, which somehow managed to recover, and it flew away. That bird could be hurt bad. Or not.

I took great offense at seeing all of this happen virtually in front of me. I've been feeding the birds off and on since last winter, when I took pity on them because it was so doggone cold outside. I used to hate the seagulls because they would squawk, beg, and peck each other into oblivion over a crust of bread. When I started feeding them, though, I began feeling differently about them. They have spirit, and they have their own personalities. And, they're just animals trying to survive. And, in some cases, they turn into "acrobats of the air"; some gulls have torn wings, or injuries to their feet or legs, but they carry on. I tend to favor the disabled seagulls, but when I feed them, I try to make sure that "everybody gets a little bit".

One gull, who only has a single leg, came up with a new system for getting food. This gull would fly around in circles, and I'd toss some bread up to it as it flew above me. The bird would then eat the bread while flying around in another circle, so I could toss it some more bread again. It was hard for that seagull to compete in the bird world, so it got resourceful and found another way to get food. Another seagull had two legs, but one leg had no foot. I would try to make sure that gull got its share of food. And, that one-footed gull was a fierce competitor, standing its own ground amidst all of the other gulls. Maybe that's a good lesson for all of us; despite our various infirmities, we can still try to hang in there and exist the best we can. Imagine, learning from them (expletive deleted) seagulls!

My first reflex was to scream and yell at these young guys who'd thrown sand and rocks at the birds. But all of a sudden, I went back to a time in my youth, and a memory presented itself. I had just gotten a BB-rifle, and I was a pretty good shot. I'd get a ping-pong ball, toss it out in the yard, and most of the time, I could hit that ball from 20 or 30 feet away. At the time, our family lived in an area that was mostly "woods", in the north part of our town. I took my BB rifle into those woods, and decided I'd become the "mighty hunter". I saw a robin perched way up high in one of the trees (I can see it as I write this), and I took aim and shot that robin in the chest. It keeled over and fell to the ground. Right then and there, I felt really bad that I'd done it. I have since never touched any kind of gun (Well, squirt guns, yeah, but you know what I mean).

And like these young guys who were strutting their stuff on the beach, terrorizing the poor defenseless seagulls, I, too, was "young and dumb". And if I'd yelled at those guys, I would have been a hypocrite. So I didn't do anything. I do hope that those young guys have learned a hard-earned lesson, and feel so bad that they won't do that anymore. It's been said that young boys who terrorize animals more often than not grow up to be abusive to wives, girlfriends and children. Well, I've never done any of that. I felt guilty after I shot that bird long ago. And I just can't bear the thought of doing or saying something that would hurt anyone. So maybe it worked out for me, and maybe things will work out for these young guys too.

If I see a gang of males together, I tend to shy away; "gang mentality" exists in all forms, shapes, and situations, after all. If there's a girl or two with the guys, it's amazing how much better-behaved the guys are. Once when I used to be a runner, one summers' evening, three young men in a car approached me from behind as I ran up a street, and one of them leaned out the window and soaked me with one of those machine-gun squirt guns. I thought, "wow, if that had been a real gun, those guys would've killed me." That was about 7 or 8 years ago. Are those guys well-behaved now, or did they get into trouble for some crime? I can see, now that I'm older, how vulnerable "old folks" feel whenever rowdy teenagers carry on, making all sorts of noises and rude gestures.

Sometimes I think the whole world's going to hell, but then I'll meet some nice young person, and that restores my faith in the human race. Not long ago, one longhaired boy, probably about 16, came over to listen to me playing guitar in the park, and we got to talking about a lot of things. He told me about how his parents had split up and how much he'd been bullied when he was younger (he was small with a slight build), and that reminded me of when I got bullied back in the 60's when I went to Borah Elementary here in CDA. I had the "gang experience" right here in this town, long ago. Those were dark days, and I'm sure I came close to having nervous breakdowns at age 12...waaay too young for that. To compound my fears, my parents expected me to fight everybody. I've been in 3 fights in my life and have lost them all. So I knew what this young man was talking about and shared that with him. Just talking about something can make a person feel better, and my hope is this young man felt a little better after talking to me.

We tend to look back on our lives, and wish we'd had better judgment when we were younger, but the problem is, kids don't have the judgment that adults (well, most adults) have, therefore, they do dumb, stupid things and get into trouble. Maybe there's just a fine line between us out here in the free world, and those in prison. Most crimes result from bad choices; some result from impulses that the person couldn't control. When I drove cab, I used to take jail inmates from their job, back up to the Kootenai County work-release facility. They made bad choices and got into a bad situation. The crime didn't make them bad, necessarily; they just did a bad thing. I had parents who were WAAAAY too restrictive, and I railed against their authority. But now I'm grateful I grew up like that. I am 52, and have not spent one MINUTE, not one SECOND, in jail. I have never been in ANY trouble. But we all learn in different ways. Sometimes people have to learn things "the hard way", and if they can learn from going to jail, fine. We all take different ways of getting through life, after all.

It's amazing, at 52, how little I know about things. Or maybe I know more than I think I do, but one fact remains: it seems that almost every day, I end up changing my outlook on something. I'm trying to understand why people are the way they are, why I'm the way I am, and why things are the way they are. That can be, and is, difficult in a world that is changing so fast. That's the price we pay for being alive. Learning how to cope with it all is a challenge, every single day. In that regard, I can only hope that life isn't as difficult as I make it out to be. But sometimes I wonder. Billy Joel once sang, "the good old days weren't always good, tomorrow's not as bad as it seems" (in his song "Keeping the Faith"), and so I keep living. What's the point of all of this, you ask after having read these multitudinous paragraphs? I guess I just needed to get all this out of my system. How about that..."computer therapy". Whod've thot?

You know how, sometimes your computer slows down and doesn't work out right, so you have to "defrag" it? From the looks of this post, I think that's what I've done...I've "defragged" my brain.


Blogger Dogwalkmusings said...

Don't know what to say except I feel I fit in your shoes. Great post. I know exactly (without meaning to appear presumptuous) where you're coming from.

1:42 PM  
Blogger animadvert said...

Did a similar dumb thing as a teen. On a family trip and stopped by a dry river bed for a "relief" break. There on the rocks some distance off sat a small lizard sunning itself. I picked up a large rock and shot-put heaved it from a goodly distance (lizards don't let you get very close). It landed dead square on that poor thing and little more than a splat remained. I felt disgusted with myself. I did value the lives of animals and didn't think I'd hit this one with a huge rock thrown so clumsily. Never took the chance again.

5:50 PM  
Blogger little ol' me said...

Hi, Ms. Dogwalkerlady...I haven't posted one of them "highly mental" posts in a long time. I couldn't believe how much I'd typed and how long the post was. I suppose if something I've posted reaches someone, then I've done good.

Anima, I didn't mean to bring back any sad memories, but evidently you felt the way I did, when you mashed that lizard. "Never took the chance again", you say. Me too, neither! I remember once when I was mad at the family dog for doing something, and I stomped my foot and scared it, and Dad yelled at me, "don't pick on poor defenseless little animals"! And so I don't.

11:01 PM  

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