Pelicans aren't worried about crime, raw sewage or sharks

Jeff Bobo • Jul 5, 2018 at 11:31 AM

As I sat on Myrtle Beach last month, doubly protected from deadly UV rays by an umbrella and SPF 70 sunscreen, it occurred to me that pelicans lead an amazing life.

They live at the ocean, spend their days hanging out at the beach diving into the water, and eat fresh seafood pretty much every meal. If I could fly, I would basically be a pelican.

And something I learned as I sat under my umbrella Googling pelicans on my phone is they have an average life expectancy of 35 years.

I could handle that. Skip the 40 years of working, and just do the combined 35 years of childhood and retirement.

Of course, when I hit 35 I might be ready to rethink that, but right now it sounds pretty good.

News reports predicting danger at the beach

In the week leading up to our annual big family camping trip on Myrtle Beach, I came across four Internet news articles that were upsetting enough to ruin even a pelican’s day.

First, there was supposedly an increase in shark sightings, and then there was supposedly a major man-of-war infestation, with their venomous, long tentacles terrorizing 60 miles of shoreline.

Whether it was true or not, I don’t know.

You see these same stories every year at the beginning of summer. The websites look sketchy and I have to wonder if it isn't “fake news” planted by the Chamber of Commerce from a competing beach trying to steer business away from the Grand Strand.

Unfortunately, the article about a sewer line break in Myrtle Beach that dumped 100,000 gallons of raw sewage into the ocean a week before our vacation appeared on several more reputable news websites.

I don’t know what impact 100,000 gallons of yuck has on the ocean and the beach, or a pelican for that matter, but it can’t be good.

It sure didn’t make me feel confident about getting out there and doing some body surfing, where a fellow might wipe out and get a mouthful by accident.

And then there was an article stating that Myrtle Beach was the third most dangerous city per capita in the United States in 2017.

We’re not talking about rampaging, mentally unstable pelicans either.

This study measured FBI statistics on human violent crimes and human property crimes per capita, and assigned a ranking based on those values.

I did a little online digging (from under my umbrella) and found a newer report that said Myrtle Beach had improved to the nation’s 32nd most dangerous city in the nation in 2018.

Third, or 32nd, of the four news reports, that was actually the news report that concerned me the least. We were staying closer to North Myrtle Beach — what I call the “old people beach” where people behave better — camped literally a stone’s throw from the surf.

The crime wave is real

Our campground is basically a secured, gated community, which is why we were a little surprised when one of our neighbors reported on our first night that someone had stolen his Yeti cooler from his campsite.

Those big Yeti coolers can sell for $800 and more, which surprised me even more because I didn’t even own a car that cost $800 until I was 30 years old.

Personally I wasn’t concerned because all my coolers are at least 25 years old and barely hold water, much less keep ice cold.

But Lynn’s brother Jerry, who was camped beside us, had been gifted a big $800 Yeti through his job somehow, and we were all saddened to find one morning that it was gone.

Jerry’s Yeti was huge and full of drinks and ice, and it must have weighed a ton. We found a big footprint in the sand beside the picnic table where his Yeti was snatched.

Unfortunately, the MBPD forensics team was unavailable to take plaster casts, so I deleted some pelican photos to make space on my phone, and took a picture.

Maggie scares off the bad guy

Some of you might recall that the only reason Lynn and I bought our camper was because of our dog Maggie Mae, who is too neurotic to be separated from us and be boarded while we’re on vacation. So we have to take her with us when we travel, which means we have to bring our “motel room” on wheels with us wherever we go.

Maggie might be neurotic, but she’s also a pretty good watchdog, and a couple of nights after Jerry was robbed, she started pacing around and whining around 3 a.m. and wouldn’t settle down until I took her out.

I put her on the retractable leash and she jumped out and had that thing stretched to the max in half a second like she was after something.

Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw somebody ducking around the back of a camper down the lane. Could have been a pelican. I don’t know. I was half asleep.

At the moment, however, I wasn’t in crime fighting mode. I was in “I need to go back to sleep” mode, and it wasn’t until morning that I registered what I might have seen.

That’s when I noticed a big sandy footprint on the rug in front of our camper door. That crook was prowling my campsite looking for something to steal, and then we found out that another neighbor’s Yeti had been stolen from their campsite that same night.

Fortunately, our 25-year-old Walmart coolers were unmolested, thanks to Maggie the crime dog.

Pelicans know all and see all

As far as we know, the culprits got away clean, and if the pelicans know who done it, they aren’t talking.

Aside from the Yeti crime wave, our trip was uneventful, and the other three upsetting articles turned out to be non-factors. We didn’t see a single shark or man-of-war, and I didn’t go into the water past my shins, hence no chance of accidentally swallowing a mouthful of yuck.

We did, however, have a massive infestation of dive bombing pelicans that put on a good show in the water right in front of us.

There wasn’t anything in the news warning travelers about the pelicans. At least, not until now.