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Problems with pigeons?

Investigators have declared that barn pigeon excrement may be a cause of the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis. Seems they have discovered that pigeon excrement causes corrosive action in the steel. In downtown Minneapolis, pigeon control is non-existent or minimal at best.

A few shotgunners from Detroit Lakes could solve the problem. Twenty-five years ago, mall owner Milton Swedberg called me into his office and suggested that I organize a posse to hunt down pigeons.

Securing permission from then Mayor Kent Freeman and the members of the city council was a bit guarded, but nevertheless, permission for a trial shoot on a spring Sunday. About fifty shooters showed up to a restaurant at the present Pizza Hut location. Shooting sites were selected -- the overhead canopy at the Holiday station; the building which housed Midwest printing, adjacent. The roofs of the First National Bank, Main Street restaurant, Holmes Junior High, the DL Pavilion on the lake and Land 0 Lakes elevator among others.

Of course, the roof of the Swedberg mall was a prime site. The organized shoot was well advertised, and at six in the morning of the following Sunday, gunfire was heard in the streets of Detroit Lakes. Hundreds of rock doves, barn pigeons, whatever you choose to call them fell to accurate, careful shooting. All of the critters were picked up by roving squads, and many were taken home. The resulting squab breast surpassed mourning doves, which were not then a legal game bird. The hunt ended in early afternoon as the birds retreated to more secure haunts about the countryside. There was some amount of rumbling and grousing by bird watchers, anti gunning and anti hunting zealots, but nothing serious. Or so we imagined.

Two weeks later a second hunt materialized. Now I had a great many more gunners. Some of these Johnny-come-latelies were not as cautious and considerate as the original group. There were squads of camo-clad shooters marching up Summit, Lake, Rossman and other avenues of the city. On Sunday morning, in peaceful Detroit Lakes!

"Why are you carrying guns here on our streets? Why aren't you in church?" citizens asked. The pigeon control extended into still another weekend. Then, loosely organized objection surfaced with appearances being made at the meeting of the city council.

It was the ruling of the municipal government that shooting, organized and controlled had no place on the streets -- as citizens felt an unease -- gunners advancing sometimes four abreast, marching towards a public building in the downtown area. Alas, the entertainment -- which is what it was -- had to be ended. The threatening shotgunners of Detroit Lakes capitulated in a peaceful manner. There were no military style holdouts, no sporadic gunfire from the oaks along Roosevelt Ave. All was quiet, and the presupposed "enemy" cased their shotguns and took them to their homes.

If you were a participant in the pigeon hunts a quarter century ago, you'll probably recall them as real fun and opportunity. You will also recall that we did all of this as a civic duty and with responsibility. We rid the city of a filthy pest, gunning them down, making the downtown area a healthier place. Now, the pigeons atop the Mall and other downtown businesses are more prevalent than ever. But if the city administration feels the need to control of the birds again, many of our lawyers, doctors, businessmen and plain sportsmen would once again be ready to reduce the flocks.

And, if the current free-flying pigeons, which live on the roof of the mall, decide that they like the fresh new steel and concrete of our Roosevelt Avenue underpass, we could deflect their guano with some gunfire. Just ask!