By Robert ‘Okie Bob’ Layton
VT-26 Beeville Texas 1983
Some say they should be in parks. Some say rooftops. Some even say on a dinner plate, but one thing for sure; Pigeons have no business around my frigging airplanes.
Senior Chief Willingham (Willie) called me from the line shack. “Okie, South,” he says “we got a problem”
“What’s going on” I reply.
He starts to explain as only a country boy SouthAlabama can. “Okie it’s those goddamn pigeons they are roosting up in the rafters here in the hangar at night and every morning my men have to clean the bird shit up and I’m just about getting tired of it!”
Staying in the southern vernacular I answer back, “BY GOD we can’t have that! —- put those sumbitches on report.”
“Okie”, Willie says “This is no shit.”
Still being irreverent toward his plight I decided to give him one more jab. “You say this is no shit Willie, then you got no problem!”
I had pushed the proud southerner too far “click” goes the phone.
I step outside of my office located in the center of the hanger and look down the length of the hangar bay toward the direction of the line shack.
Completely predictable—- out pops Willie from his office, just a cutting a rug toward me, and as I might add looking somewhat cartoon like AKA (Popeye).
I greet him with a wide smile and a what’s the matter naïve attitude.
“Willie I know about them birds I’ll see if I can get someone to handle the problem for you”.
“Aye Aye master chief ” came his reply.
I could tell he had not gotten over my perceived indifference for he had switched from the Bubba to the military mannerisms
“Carry on senior chief” I jokingly replied and returned to my office and called public works; the civilian side responsible for pest control.I explained our problem to the secretary taking the call. She tells me there should be someone out today.
A few hours later a scruffy looking Texan comes in my door. “Are you mMaster Chief Layton?” he asks
“Yes sir” I replied
“I’m here for the pigeon problem ”
“Good let me show you what we got”
We take a walk out the hangar bay and survey the “bird strikes”
“As you can see we got a problem with these pigeons,” I said. Although it was the middle of the day there was still about 10-15 birds up in the overhead of the hanger bay
“How are you going to get rid of them?” I asked.
The Texan looked skyward and mumbled something.
“Are you going to poison them? ” I asked.
He just looked down. Not being in the Texas mode and impatience during his pause
I say, “Are ya going to shoot them”
Finally, he responds “Noooo—–can’t do that”
Still, three questions ahead of his answers I respond “Can’t do what?”
“Kill’em” he sneered.
“Oh, Ok then what is it you’re going to do?”
“I plan on feeding them some grain that has been soaked in hallucinatory drug, you know something like that LSD”
“What’s that going to do overdose them and kill ’em?”
I was all for capital punishment for pigeons shitting on my airplanes.
“No No,” he said “that there drug will make em lose their way and they won’t find their way back at the end of the day”
“Are you sure it will work?”
“Oh, yeah!” He said
“Well sir, I’m going back over to my shop to get my truck, I’ll be back after while.” So off he goes and comes back with a big ass bucket truck.
While he was gone I go get Willie. “Hey Willie there is going to be a civilian down here in a little bit to take care of your pigeons”
“Good, kill ’em, ” he says “do I need to move the aircraft out of the hanger so he can shoot them?”
“I’m not sure”, I prevaricated, for I was anticipating the entertainment I knew Willie and the Texan were about to provide me. We both greeted the Texas civilian.
“Hey what ya got going on?” Willie asked him.
“Are ya going to climb up in the rafters and wring their little fucking necks?” He asked.
“Nooo—can’t do that”
Willie gets up close to the Texans face, cocks his head, looks the guy in the eyeball. “Wel, what are ya going to do then?”
Tex reaches in a small cloth sack he is carrying opens up his hand.”I’m going to give them this here grain”
Willie says “Oh you’re going to poison them?”
By this time the lone Texan was getting a little bent by our rapid fire questioning. “I told you fellers we can’t kill ’em .”
“Well hell mister what’s the grain for?
“I’m going to feed it to ’em.”
“The hell you say?”
Willie goes off—- much to my delight. “You dumb-ass we want to get rid of them not raise-em”
I’m loving the failure to communicate that is playing out before me.
Tex, “This will do the trick.”
Willie, “Damn boy don’t you know nothing!”
Tex “Hey I’m the goddamn pest control officer on this base, I know what I’m doing”
Willie as he stomped off, fired one last parting shot, “Fucking sand crab!”
The Texan proceeds to arrange his truck so as to get the bucket in the rafters and spreads the grain around, climbs back down, and announces, “That ought to take care of your problem.”
“Thanks, how long before we see results?”
“Oooh about 10 to 12 days,” he replied.
Later that evening, at the Chief’s club, we all had a good laugh as I began to explain to the rest of the chiefs what had happened with the pest control officer and Willie. The jokes were just a flowing about them drugged-up, tripped out pigeons cohabitating in my hanger.
And as the days passed my amusement of the pigeon shit problem had evolved into the running joke of the base I was often asked, “Hey Okie have those doper birds flown off yet?”
To which I would reply, “A few of them have taken off toward Haight Ashbury in San Francisco”
After about 2-3 weeks it was apparent the pigeons were not going to fly off. In fact, it even looked like the numbers had increased!
It was time for a little action. So I Mustered Willie, Mo, Hughie, Penny, and myself at the Chiefs Club about 1600. I had left orders for the fire watches to empty the hanger of aircraft and to wait till after dark (once the birds had gone to roost) and then close all the hangar bay doors.
After a few beers, it was decided that we would all get some BB guns and go to town on those birds.
Well by the time darkness arrived (2100) we were all lit but ready to go. We called over to the hangar and talked to the duty section leader making sure that all officers and waves had secured for the weekend, and that the hangar doors were closed and the birds trapped inside
Pulling up to the hanger in Willies’ pick-up were three drunken Chiefs in the bed armed with Daisy’s finest, ready for action.
Well, those birds never knew what hit em. It was so easy, and believe it or not, we had no collateral damage from the BB guns
By the time the slaughter was over we had a 55-gallon barrel full of dead birds.
Willie said he wanted the breast off the pigeons.So in the back of willies truck went the barrel & birds. We pulled back off the line and retreated to the Chiefs club for a post mission brief and beer.
The following week my CO was down in the hanger and asked me, “Master Chief I see you got rid of them birds, how did you do it, shoot em?”
“No skipper we couldn’t do that we are not suppose to Kill-em.” For a moment I thought our deed was discovered. So I tell him about the Texas pest control officer and the Bird seed laced in LSD. Which was (one) true event, what I didn’t tell him was the evening raid and the great Beeville pigeon shootout. The C.O. was impressed by the story of the LSD grain and how humanely the birds were treated and wanted to know more about the pest control officer.
To my horror He wanted to send the guy a letter of appreciation!
I quickly volunteered to take care of it “Don’t worry skipper I’ll make sure he gets it.” Well I did wind up writing the guy a letter of appreciation and had the skipper sign it. The C.O. wanted to present it to him at Quarters but we talked him out of it by having a little impromptu ceremony/barbecue in the back of the Chiefs Club.
Old Tex was certainly full of himself that day. He keep saying “See I told ya so, I told ya that special seed would work”.
Yea, yea, we all sang his praises, “You want another piece of ‘quail breast'” We asked.
“Sure, ” he says, “these are really good.”
Willie remarked, “Yeah we shot them birds on My Turf; most of them were Special Grain fed!”
Old Tex really enjoyed that “Hanger Quail”