Quoth The Raven: Feed Me!


August 25, 1991|By Dave Barry

If you're one of the millions of Americans who travel by air, a question you no doubt frequently ask yourself, upon boarding an airplane, is: "What, exactly, are the odds that this airplane will be pecked apart by birds?"

Unfortunately they are a lot higher than you thought. Alert reader Colleen C. Brown has sent in an Associated Press article stating that ravens have been pecking holes in small airplanes at the airport in Sodoltna, Alaska. This is not the first example of nature getting out of control in Alaska (official state motto: "Bear? I Don't See Any Beaaaaiieeeeee").

Alaska was also the site of the Easter Egg Hunt From Hell back in April. Many alert readers sent me the story about this event that appeared in the Anchorage Daily News, which sponsored the hunt along with the Kiwanis Club. The story says that about 1,500 children showed up for the hunt, but some of them wandered too far into the woods, where the snow was waist-deep.

"Kids became stuck in the deep snow and mud and began to panic," the story says. "At least eight were reported missing by their parents."

So the police were called, and if you are at all familiar with Alaska you will not be surprised to learn that one officer, Fred Jones, was attacked by a moose.

Officer Jones, flailing his way through the snow, tried desperately to escape, but the Easter Moose, which weighed 1,500 pounds and was in a very bad mood, kept after him. Finally Officer Jones was forced to draw his revolver and dispatch the moose to the Big Stomping Ground in the Sky. But aside from this incident and some cases of frostbite, it was a fun day all around. We can only imagine what kind of special treat the Daily News and Kiwanis Club are cooking up for the children for Christmas. Perhaps somebody should alert the National Guard.

But the point is that we should not be surprised to learn that small airplanes in Alaska are having holes pecked in their wings by ravens. The Associated Press article quotes a raven expert named Boyd Shafer ("who has worked with ravens in movies") as saying that ravens are "highly intelligent" birds that are always pecking things open in search of something to eat.

"If they think there's food inside, then they'll try and get at it," says Mr. Shafer. "That's a raven for you."

NTC These are alarming words indeed. Because if the ravens are in fact "highly intelligent," it's only a matter of time before they figure out that they're wasting their time looking for food inside small planes. It's going to dawn on them that a much better source of food is large commercial airplanes, some of which even carry a choice of entrees (usually "beef that tastes like chicken" and "chicken that tastes like used football pads").

Some night in the near future, on some commercial flight carrying a couple of hundred tired business people home, the pilot's voice will come on the intercom and say: "Ladies and gentlemen, we seem to be encountering some unexpected peck peck peck really there's nothing to worry peck peck peck peck probably just go away if we peck peck peck peck peck peck peck my God they're coming through the windscreen peck peck peck peck peck peck oh nooooooo . . . "

What could happen next inside that ill-fated airplane is only too easily imagined by anybody who ever saw Alfred Hitchcock's chilling movie "The Birds," in which tens of thousands of birds suddenly, without warning, dressed up as Anthony Perkins and attacked Janet Leigh in the shower. While the plane swerved and pitched violently, with the pilot fighting to regain control, the passenger cabin would become a nightmarish chamber of horrors as swarms of highly intelligent, shrieking, entree-crazed ravens swooped and dived among terrified business people making pathetic attempts to defend themselves but succeeding only in whapping each other on the heads with their Wall Street Journals.

Somebody should do something. We can't count on the airlines. They're paralyzed by financial problems, which have gotten so bad that on many flights, the pilot will refuse to land until the passengers agree to cash his paycheck. So it's up to you to protect yourself. From now on, when you take a commercial flight, you should carry some means of self-defense, such as a tennis racket or a small travel-size machete. If the airport security personnel ask any questions, tell them: "Don't worry! This is only in case the plane is attacked by ravens!" If they have any questions, as evidenced by the fact that they wrestle you to the floor and handcuff you and sit on your head, then you just refer them to me. Assure them that I am a well-known nationally syndicated newspaper columnist who will take full responsibility. sure you spell my name correctly: G-E-O-R-G-E W-I-L-L.

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