Danarchy and I were the first people down into this area when we first discovered this system in late December of 2001. We'd been walking through the arches of the tunnel for quite a distance, and were pretty relaxed by the tunnel's regularity as we continued southward.

Suddenly, the calm was shattered violently by a loud whumping barrage of sound. I instinctively ducked. "What the hell was that?!"

"Maybe a truck overhead," Danarchy suggested. "I felt sand coming down on my head from the ceiling."

The sound did not recur, and we started moving again.

WHUMPWHUMPWHUMPWHUMPWHUMP!!! Much louder this time around …

Danarchy's statement about feeling the ceiling coming down on him must have influenced my perceptions/interpretations, because for a second or two I would have sworn the tunnel was collapsing, and that the reverberating "whumps" we heard were chunks of sandy rock hitting the soft tunnel floor. I was only a brief moment, and I did not really even have time to get frightened before I realized what the sound actually was: tunnel pigeons!

If you've ever heard a pigeon take wing, you know they are pretty noisy. Now imagine this sound as totally unexpected and in the environment of a silent tomb of a tunnel, and maybe you can understand why it scared the crap out of us.

But this was only the beginning of the Tunnel Pigeons' reign of terror.

Hours of exploration of the Bridge Room Tunnels later, we wound up down in Pigeon Row again. We wanted to look out the hole in the cement at the end of the tunnel to verify our location, but there was a gang of pigeons skulking about down there looking surly and tough.

Slim Jim, being insane, armed himself with a sledgehammer (!) that we'd found in the tunnel and advanced toward the avian menaces. What followed was one of the funniest spectacles I've witnessed. There are no pictures of this event, as no could stop laughing long enough to point a camera.

Using this massive, heavy hammer, Jim began gently shooing the birds out of the dead end and, back toward us. I don't know how to describe this in terms that would do it any justice. Either you can imagine a tall skinny guy in a dead end tunnel herding 6 or 7 pigeons with a sledge hammer, or you can't. And if you can, you can either see the humor in it or you cannot. Personally, I almost peed my pants, but I had the advantage of being there.

So anyway, Jim looks out the hole, and reports that we're right under the end of the Wabasha Bridge. Then, since not even Jim can crawl thorough an 8-inch cement hole, he starts back toward us. This is where things really got nuts. See, since he chased the pigeons away from the end of the tunnel, they are now between him and us. They'd already learned to fear the man with the hammer, and so they fled before him. Right toward us.

Now, you might think you're pretty tough. You might even consider yourself a bad-assed motherfucker. It's OK, I believe you. But let me tell you a secret. There is only one reaction to a pigeon flying at your head in a tunnel, and you'd do the same thing we did.

You scream, and, screaming, you hit the floor.

Then you get up and repeat this process every time another pigeon tries to fly through your face. No matter how many times you do it, this is still the requisite reaction. You do not become jaded. When a pigeon flies at your face for the 10th time, you scream just as loudly and hit the floor just as quickly as you did the first time.

Trust me. This is how it is done.

So, much screaming and ducking later, Jim joined us. Now we had a long trek back through the tunnel … with the pigeons ahead of us. They fled before us each time we got close to them. A few of them got wise and flew back toward the hole, evoking a whole new round of screaming prostration, but four or five of the vermin continued their flight down the tunnel every time we got close.

Pigeons are not designed for delicate maneuvering, however, and although they'd clearly tried to kill us, we nonetheless felt pity for these simpleminded sky rats as they flew into the walls and metal arches.

We decided to blame Slim Jim for the pigeon plague, and elected him to deal with this new problem. Suddenly turning into the BeastMaster, he went ahead of us and, one by one, caught the remaining pigeons by hand and set them down behind us. I'd like to say his technique involved whispering to them and hypnotizing the little snots, but the actual official Slim Jim Pigeon Capture Technique involves stepping on their tailfeathers and pinning them to the floor, which allowed him to pick 'em up. Take notes! This is useful information for your day-to-day life!

Slim Jim, pigeon herder.


Anyway, that's that for the pigeon story. We came, we screamed, we fell on the floor.