The Great Beeville Bee-Bee Derby

By Robert Layton

VT-26 Beeville 2014-02-02_2211

VT-26 Beeville,  Texas 1983

Some say they should be in parks.

Some say roof tops.

Some even say on a dinner plates, but one thing for sure;

Pigeons have no business around my frigging airplanes!

VT-26 Beeville 2014-02-02_2213

Senior Chief Willingham (Willie) called me from the line shack. “Hello?”

Okie” he says “we got a problem!”

“What’s going on Willie?” I replied.

He started to explain as only a Country Boy from South Alabama can. “Okie, it’s those goddamn pigeons! They are roosting up in the rafters here in the hanger at night, and every morning my men have to clean the bird sh*t up, and I’m just about getting tired of it!”

Staying in the southern vernacular I answed back, “By God, we can’t have that! –Put them sum-bitches on report!”

“Okie” Willie says, waxing more serious if he wasn’t enough already, as he gets me to sign on to the true gravity of the situation; “This is no s**t.”

Still being irreverent toward his plight I decided to give him one more jab. “You say this is no sh*t, Willie? Then you got no problem!

I had pushed the proud Southerner too far. “Click” went the phone.

I stepped outside of my office, located in the center of the hangar, and looked down the length of the hangar bay toward the direction of the line shack. Completely predictably –out pops Willie from his office, just a-cutting a rug toward me, and as I might add, looking somewhat cartoonish, like an angry Popeye the Sailor Man.

I greeted him with a wide smile and a what’s-a-matter, naïve attitude. It was an easy disarming. Finally, compassionately, I assured him. “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 appeased reply. I could tell he had not quite gotten over the indifference he perceived in my attitude toward his dilemma, for he had switched from his natural Bubba mannerisms to more forced, Military mannerisms.

“Carry on Senior Chief!” I facetiously replied, dismissing him. I went back into my office to call Public Works, the Civilian side of the base, that was responsible for pest control. I explained our problem to the secretary taking the call.

She said “there should be someone out today.”

A few hours later a scruffy-looking Texan came through my door. “Are you Master Chief Layton?” He asked.

“Yes Sir.” I replied.

“I’m here for the pigeon problem.”

“Good. Let me show you what we got.”

We walked out the hangar bay. “As you can see,” I said as we surveyed the bird strikes. “We got a problem with these pigeons.” Although it was the middle of the day there were still about a dozen birds up in the overhead of the hangar 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.

The Texan just looked down, avoiding eye contact with me. Not being in Texas-mode, and impatient during his pause, I continued my questioning. “Are ya gonna shoot ‘em?”

Finally, he responded. “Noooo –can’t do that.

Still three questions ahead of his answers, I responded “Can’t do what?

“Kill ’em.”

“Oh, okay. 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 when it came to pigeons sh*ting on my airplanes.

“No. No.” He said. “That there drug will make ‘em lose their way, and they won’t find their way back to roost in the hangar at the end of the day.”

“Are you sure it will work?” I asked, unconvinced of the potential effectiveness of his method.

“Oh yeah!” He said, confidently. Then he added. “Well Sir, I’m going back over to my shop to get my truck. I’ll be back after while” So, off he went. While he was gone I went to get Willie, the both of us arriving before the Texan’s return with a big-ass bucket truck.

I took the time to brief the Senior Chief. “Hey Willie, there is going to be a Civilian down here in a little bit. He is going to take care of your pigeons.”

“Good!” He said. “Do I need to move the aircraft out of the hangar so he can shoot ‘em?”

“I’m not sure.” I prevaricated. I was provoking and anticipating the entertainment I knew Willie and the Texan were about to provide for me.

We both greeted the Texas Civilian, as he climbed out of his bucket truck. “Hey, what ya got going on?” Willie asked him.

No answer.

“Are ya going to go up in the rafters and wring their little f**king necks?” He pressed.

Noooo –can’t do that!

Willie got up close to the Texans face, cocked his head, looked the guy in the eyeball, and asked “Well, what are ya goin’ to do then?”

Tex reached in a small cloth sack he was carrying, and then as he opened up his hand, he explained. “I’m going to give them this here grain.”

Willie, now satisfied, said “Oh! You’re going to poison them.”

By this time the lone Texan was getting a little bent by our rapid fire questioning. Sternly, he reaffirmed. “I told you fellers, we can’t kill-em!”

“Well, Hell mister! What’s the grain for?” Willie demanded to know.

“I’m going to feed it to-em.”

“The hell you say!”

“Yep!”

This sent Willie into a tail spin –much to my delight. “You dumb-ass! We want to get rid of them, not raise ‘em!” He informed the Texan, as I stood by, loving the –what we got here is failure to commutate– playing out before me.

The ever confident Texan Exterminator assured Willie. “This will do the trick.”

Willie didn’t believe him. “Damn, Boy! Don’t you know nothin’?

This comment got the Texan’s dander up. “Hey! I’m the goddamn pest control officer on this base. I know what I’m doing!”

Willie stomped off  after firing one last parting shot. “– F**king sand crab!”

Beeville Hangar 2014-02-02_2212

The Texan proceeded to arrange his truck so as to get the bucket in the rafters. He spread the grain around, climbed back down, and then announced. “That ought to take care of your problem.”

I thanked the man, then asked “How long before we see results?”

“Oooh, about ten to twelve days.” He answered.

Later that evening at the Chief’s Club, we all had a good laugh as I explained 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, cohabiting in my hangar. As the days passed, to my amusement, the pigeon sh*t 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, a neighborhood famous for it’s Hippie sub-culture. After about two or three weeks it was apparent that 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.

I Mustered Willie, Moe, Hughie and Penny at the Chief’s Club at about 1600 hours on a Friday. I laid out my plan…

I had left orders for the fire watches to empty the hanger of aircraft, to wait after dark –once the birds had come back to roost– and to close all the hangar bay doors. After a few beers it was decided and agreed upon. We would all get some BB-guns and go to town, shooting-gallery-style, on those birds.

By the time darkness arrived, 2100 hours, 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. We also affirmed that all the hangar bay doors were closed , and that the birds were trapped inside.

You could almost hear the fifes and drums sounding through the warm, Texan, evening air as Willie’s Pick-up truck pulled up with three, drunken Chiefs loaded in the back, armed with Daisy’s finest –and ready for action.

Well those poor 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 fifty-five gallon barrel –full of dead birds.

Willie said he wanted the breasts off the pigeons. So, in the back of Willie’s truck went the barrel with the birds. We pulled back off line and retreated to the Chief’s Club for a post-mission debriefing –and some more beer.

The following week my Commanding Officer was down in the hanger and asked me, “Master Chief, I see you got rid of those birds. How did you do it, shoot ‘em?”

Testing the waters to see if he had found out about our shooting I replied, “No Skipper, we couldn’t do that. We are not supposed to kill ‘em.”

“What did you do then?” He asked.

I told him all about the Texas Pest Control Officer, and the  magic bird seed laced with LSD. Which was a true event. Committing a lie of omission, what I didn’t tell him was about the late evening raid, and the “Great Beeville Pigeon Shoot.”

The C.O. was impressed by the story of the LSD-laced grain, and how humanely the birds were treated. He 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. But, the C.O. wanted to present it to him at Quarters. We talked him out of that, by offering to have a little, impromptu ceremony/barbecue in the back of the Chief’s Club.

Old Tex was certainly full of himself that day. He kept telling everyone,  “see I told ya so!” and “I told ya that seed would work!”

“Yeah, yeah!” We all sang his praises.

“You want another piece of quail breast? Willie offered the Texan politely.

“Sure!” He said. “These are really good!

Willie remarked, “Yeah we shot them birds on my own turf –this game was all grain-fed!

The end pigeon 2014-02-03_1138

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