Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Drunk Pigeons

This story goes back about twelve years ago, to the days when hooch, or prison wine was common. You never see it here any more, but back then hooch was a way of life.  It was a constant struggle with the inmates who made it to hide it from the correctional officers, who were always trying to find it. Often when they found it the officers would dump it down the nearest toilet, but on this occasion the hooch was inside a large plastic milk bag, so too much for the toilet.  This bag they took outside the block and dumped it in the grass.
The hooch was made out of assorted fruit with a considerable amount of bread to work as yeast. So when it was poured out into the grass the liquid leached into the ground, but the fermented fruit and bread rested on top of the grass.  It didn't take long for the ever present pigeons to spot the smorgasbord and land to dine.  Most of the pigeons gave up after the first bite, but a few stayed and ate more.  I was one of a group of guys who stood at the windows watching this, wondering if a pigeon could get drunk.  Turns out they can.
Of those that stayed to eat the fermented meal all but one left in less than five minutes.  I watched those that flew off carefully.  I'd once made the mistake of flying my airplane after drinking a single beer.  You can drink a beer and drive a car just fine, but as I learned then, an airplane is an entirely different matter.  Knowing I'd made a mistake I landed at the first airport I reached and stayed on the ground for eight hours, just as FAA rules dictate.  "Eight hours from bottle to throttle."  I found it interesting that all the pigeons that flew off landed immediately on the adjoining building.  As best I could tell they all stayed put.  Smart birds.
But this one pigeon liked those fermented bits.  Shortly after all the other birds had left him alone this pigeon started to walk funny.  A couple of minutes later when she leaned over to peck at a piece of fermented bread she tilted forward until her belly was on the ground but her feet were not. Even though it was funny no one laughed because we all thought the bird had died.  This was an issue because we often fed the birds, so sort of liked them.  But in less than a minute the pigeon righted itself, took a few wobbly steps and ate some more, then fell over again.  Now we were all laughing because this was hysterical.  The bird kept eating and passing out.  Each time it fell forward until only its belly was holding it up.  It never fell all the way over, which was odd, but entertaining to watch.   In response to our loud laughter it attempted to fly, which might have been the saddest thing I have ever seen a bird do.  On it's first attempt it only flapped one wing, on the next all it did was beat the ground with both wings.  After a few failed attempts to fly it gave up and ate more fermented bread.
If we'd have had this on video it would be a You Tube sensation.
We'd noticed that it was staying passed out longer each time, so we figured it wouldn't be long before it passed out long enough to sober up.  About this time someone remembered the cats. Every night about time for the 4:00 count several cats would show up under these windows because we fed them there too.  As that time drew near I went to the cop and asked if he could do something to help the pigeon.  I couldn't get out there so I had hopped the officer would help. He seemed sympathetic but couldn't leave his post do save a drunk bird.
When we were locked down for count the last I saw the pigeon she was stumbling around and looking a little better.   When I was able to return to the window after count twenty minutes later a big feral cat sat in the midst of pigeon feathers licking it's paws clean.

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