The Truth behind Sea Gulls

Gulls at Trans Jordan landfill

Gulls at Trans Jordan landfill

In 1955, Utah legislators named the “Sea Gull” the state bird. They were commemorating the 1848 “Miracle of the Seagulls,” when huge flocks of gulls ate up hoards of crickets, saving crops of the newly landed Mormon pioneers.

"Seagull Monument" in Temple Square, Salt Lake City

“Seagull Monument” in Temple Square, Salt Lake City

This is funny on two counts:

  • As Mainers know, there’s no such thing as a “sea gull.” The gull they honor is, in fact, the California Gull, one of four dozen species in the subfamily of gulls. Back home, we have plenty of Herring Gulls and Black-Backed Gulls. “Look at the sea gulls!” is something tourists say.
  • There was no Miracle of Gulls, either. Mormon researchers have found little or no references to the phenomenon during the time it is said to have occurred.

“Nowhere is mentioned any instance of a spectacular crop rescue by cricket-eating seagulls,” writes the Mormonism Research Ministry.

Gulls, do, however have a long and storied connection to trash. We took a trip to the Trans Jordan landfill the other day.

Gulls, gulls everywhere!

Though not one for superlatives, I must say I’ve never, ever, in my entire life seen so many gulls in one place. Utah’s state bird, rarely seen elsewhere, has a huge presence at dumps. And dumps have a huge presence in Utah.

IMG_3793For starters, the state population is booming (increasing by 40,000 annually) and everyone’s trash has to go somewhere.

Secondly, recycling is not integrated into the folks’ mindsets or municipal mandates.

“I think we Utahns still have a Western frontier attitude,” my realtor told me when I asked why there was so little recycling.

A friend added, “a large percentage of the population here thinks that climate change is a liberal hoax…and that God created the earth so that man could trash it. “

According to Trans Jordan landfill site, less than 15 percent of Salt Lake Valley trash is recycled (less than half of the national average). Not coincidentally, trash production well above the national average. Utahns generate more than a ton per capita per year, reports a national study.

Heck, Maine isn’t exactly a shining example of sustainability, but it recycles six times more trash than Utah, generating nearly a million tons less trash.

Maine’s state bird is the chickadee, which likes to flit around trees. Maine has plenty of trees.

Utah has plenty of trash…

Now I get it!

The selection of gull as state bird wasn’t a nod to Mormon myth. It was a prophetic gesture.


For want of a Darn Tough sock

IMG_4761For want of a sock the foot was sore,

For want of a foot the hiker was sore,

For want of a hiker the walk was lost,

For want of a walk the day was lost,

So the day was lost – all for want of a sock.


Yep, it pays to keep the feet happy.

Cheap socks aren’t even worth their few dollars, in my mind.


Because who wants to hobble around for two days, recovering from blisters caused by them?

That’s why I’m okay with paying a bit more for good socks. You can climb and run and stretch and trot and they will still hold up.

We recently took several pairs of Darn Tough socks for test drives around rugged parts of Utah and Florida.

DSC02725Aidan Gaughran wore them on day-long hikes and climbs in Arches National Park. “Not once did I feel like my feet were sweating,” he said. “They were super comfortable.”

Emily Thomas Luciano wore them out and around the Blackwater River State Forest, in Florida’s panhandle. “I found these to be awesome, versatile socks made even better by the fun colors,” she said. “I wore them with my everyday, all-terrain boots on a hot, humid, 85-degree day. In other socks, my feet would be feeling a little soggy working outdoors in such weather. These socks were light enough to let my feet breathe while maintaining support. I also enjoyed that they kept their shape – I didn’t have to tug at the band to pull them up once!”

I wore them on hiking outings in the Oquirrh foothills. Darn Tough’s styles for women this spring are colorful, durable, but without the thickness of their great winter socks. Perfect for perfectly contented toes. They happen to be great for riding and riding boots, too. Check out this review.

Aside from being guaranteed great, we like ‘em because they’re made in Vermont.

Check out their zippy women’s styles

Check out their men’s lines.


Rock on, Salt Lake of yore

cold bloodI got to chatting with Charley Hafen about Utah’s cultural scene in the 60s and 70s.
Hafen knows about these things. He was in his teens and twenties back then, a card-carrying hippie who mixed with scores of other talented artists and musicians, he recalled.

Hafen, now an accomplished jeweler and owner of Charley Hafen Custom Jewelers, was part of a lively minority in this Mormon-majority state.
It was a “thick and rich” minority, he said. “Just look at the poster scene…These were active, active artists. There was lots of production.”

Salt Lake City might not have been a natural destination for rock bands, but it was a natural pit stop. The city sits near the Interstate 80 midpoint between San Francisco and Denver, a 1200-mile trek.
Bands booked gigs. Local artists churned out concert posters: The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Ry Cooder, Ike and Tina Turner, Canned Heat, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Joan Baez, Santana, Bread. The list goes on.

At a site Hafen developed to celebrate and archive the times, you’ll see work for shows at the Terrace Ballroom, the Union Ballroom at the University of Utah, even the Lagoon, a Mormon-run amusement park in Farmington.

charleyAt right, Hafen stands next to one of his favorites, a 1968 poster by Kenvin Lyman for Vernal Equinox and Buffalo Springfield. (Lyman an accomplished commercial artist who would, among other successes, go on to become the area’s first commercial organic farmer in 2002.)

I asked how these rock bands – notorious for their blatant illegal drug use and casual lewdness  – got away with all that at Mormon-run venues.
They flew under the radar for some time, he said. It was more or less ducky until Jim Morrison and the Doors visited the Lagoon in 1969. Mr. Morrison thought it would be fun to drop his trousers. Producers were not amused.
“That was the final kiss of death,” said Hafen. (A year later, Morrison was convicted of indecent exposure in Florida.)

Vanilla Fudge concert with opening act, Led Zeppelin

Vanilla Fudge concert with opening act, Led Zeppelin

Check out Hafen’s fabulous collection of poster work here.

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