The seagulls came earlier this month. They are violent birds, chasing away Wyoming’s winter black ravens. The seagulls scavenge from dumpsters and restaurant parking lots. They soar over the small park ponds in search of the few fish that are in this mountain-locked valley.
They are how I know it is spring in Laramie. May is unpredictable. One day, you’ll sport shorts and t-shirts, and the next day, or even sometimes within the next few hours, you’ll bundle in coats, scarves, and knit hats. As a Wyoming non-native, the snow drops out of the sky quick and unexpected, wet and windy. The seagulls are the harbingers of spring—how I know the long winter which began in early October finally suffers death-throws.
Snow is never far away. I’ve been told snow has fallen mid-July here, and if I look to the Snowy Range, their tops are never not covered in white. The gulls, though, they settle in and seem out of place without their ocean.
By Robert Service
’Twas on an iron, icy day
I saw a pirate gull down-plane,
And hover in a wistful way
Nigh where my chickens picked their grain.
An outcast gull, so grey and old,
Withered of leg I watched it hop,
By hunger goaded and by cold,
To where each fowl full-filled its crop.
They hospitably welcomed it,
And at the food rack gave it place;
It ate and ate, it preened a bit,
By way way of gratitude and grace.
It parleyed with my barnyard cock,
Then resolutely winged away;
But I am fey in feather talk,
And this is what I heard it say:
“I know that you and all your tribe
Are shielded warm and fenced from fear;
With food and comfort you would bribe
My weary wings to linger here.
An outlaw scarred and leather-lean,
I battle with the winds of woe:
You think me scaly and unclean…
And yet my soul you do not know,
“I storm the golden gates of day,
I wing the silver lanes of night;
I plumb the deep for finny prey,
On wave I sleep in tempest height.
Conceived was I by sea and sky,
Their elements are fused in me;
Of brigand birds that float and fly
I am the freest of the free.
“From peak to plain, from palm to pine
I coast creation at my will;
The chartless solitudes are mine,
And no one seeks to do me ill.
Until some cauldron of the sea
Shall gulp for me and I shall cease…
Oh I have lived enormously
And I shall have prodigious peace.”
With yellow bill and beady eye
This spoke, I think, that old grey gull;
And as I watched it Southward fly
Life seemed to be a-sudden dull.
For I have often held this thought -
If I could change this mouldy me,
By heaven! I would choose the lot,
Of all the gypsy birds, to be
A gull that spans the spacious sea.