Shadow Racers

Yeah, a lot of you have been asking ” Hey! What about the first heavier than air, air race that was held on May 23, 1909 – the Prix de Lagatinerie, at the Port-Aviation airport south of Paris, France? And how does that tie in with this new sport we’re hearing about called Shadow Racing?” In fact so many cards and letters have been coming in that we had to assign a special intern just to steam the stamps off the envelopes so we could use them again. We heard you and have been working feverishly to gather the information to put together this article. There’s a whole crock pot of information about this subject and we intend to dredge up every sordid, exciting, non-essential, nearly factual bit we can find.

Air racing as a sport has often included airplanes, some of them made here at home which would be America, and some made other places like Europe which at one time included Great Britain and France and Germany, all countries that fit inside Europe the continent and have had some success with inventing various stuff and then bragging about it constantly. One of these things was Airplanes and their own proprietary version of air racing.

The heyday of this sport was in the 1930’s and 40’s and even later in which the races were set at different venues and various contestants got airplanes and raced them. Many spectators attended these races and got sore necks from looking up all the time. Some even got all over dizzy of a second and had to lay down for a while. The planes themselves were interesting in that they all were heavier than air and took some skill to fly them. Every one who had a plane was extremely proud of their aircraft, even more so if it didn’t fall out of the sky and crash and these owners would go on and on about the safety of this new mode of transportation called aviation until you were just sick of it and began avoiding them whenever possible. In the early 20’s you had planes with names like the Albatross L 69 from Germany, the de Havilland DH.71 Tiger Moth from England. Even earlier you had the Deprussian 1912 Racing Monoplane from France. Those early planes were special in that they were constructed of things like, wood, wire, paper, canvas and glue and other non-essential materials that were cheap and readily available.

Later in the 40’s you had the Caproni Bergamaschi PL.3 from Italy, and the Condor Shoestring from the U.S. There was even one from The USSR called the Yakolev Yak – 11. However there is no record of it ever winning a race or even flying for that matter which may have something to do with its namesake, as the only time Yaks fly is when they’re tumbling through space after falling off one of the high mountain cliffs in which they’re found. But you know the Russians they got to get their two cents in there. Even if it is to brag about their dumb named plane which supposedly crashed into a tree upon take off and never flew again. It wasn’t even a very tall tree.

All of  this sky racing stuff was not lost on our feathered friends, the birds, who have been flying for years and have gotten highly skilled at it. Birds are great mimickers and saw the fun that people were having racing their planes around and sometimes getting big bucks for doing so and thought “Wait a minute! I’m a bird! I can do that!” and soon were putting on their own airshows and races and pulling in big crowds.

One of the big events they created was the sport of Shadow Racing. This is when a single bird or sometimes many of them, builds up a head of steam way up in the air and comes screaming in, diving as low as they can over the ground, trying to out race their shadows. In the image above you can see this streamlined racing gull, a tried and true model that hasn’t changed its shape for many years, slowly but easily out distancing its shadow. Cool, right? This sport is growing in popularity and gaining big crowds at flyways like Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge both important areas for bird flying. We mustn’t forget Padre Island and those long sandy beaches perfect for this event. Even the lumbering old Pelicans, the C-130’s  of the bird world compete there. There is even some talk of a nationally televised race sponsored by Red Bull and Budweiser, but as yet no dates have been set.

We for one, look forward to this seasons many Shadow Racing events and will be on hand to capture the excitement of it with our cameras. In fact we have been busy designing our own Shadow Racing bird and believe we can do well in the shorter Shadow Racing Sprints. Wish us luck. Hope to see you there.

Your Left


Your Left, Your left, Your Left, Right, left

Let ’em blow let ’em blow
Let the four winds blow
Let ’em blow from east to west
The Padre Island Gulls are best

Standing tall and looking good
Ought to march in Hollywood

Hold your head and hold it high
Short beak Platoon is marching by

Look to your right and whadta see?
A whole bunch of feathers looking at me

Dress it right and cover down
Forty inches all around

Three to the front, Two to the rear
That’s the way we do it here

Padre Island Marching Gulls, Hep, 2,3,4. Turn it around and do it once more.

Grace and Tranquility



Grace and Tranquility are recent graduates of Swan Training School and are back in Yellowstone National park as new members of swan society. Their job is to swim the quiet rivers of the park, displaying all the qualities of mature young adults, preening, posing gently in the smooth backwaters of the river bends, projecting an air of beauty and refinement you’ve come to expect from swans.

Those of you who are quick studies will notice that Grace is doing what she was trained to do but Tranquility, her classmate, seems to be missing. This is unfortunate because swans, although beautiful when seen alone are of course doubly beautiful when displayed in pairs and the normal procedure would be for the two of them to show up at their appointed places and work the river together.

It seems that Tranquility, always a willful child had a few problems at Swan Training school and nearly missed her graduation due to some disciplinary problems. A quick note here. Sometime, back around the first of last year, we at The Institute made a startling discovery of the existence of the Swan Training School and wrote about it after infiltrating the school to get the inside story of how young swans are made. You can read about it here . The training we found was harsh and rigorous. It’s a difficult road for young swans and the molding process used at the school is designed to break down individuality and force a form of collective thinking that produces a “Finished Swan”. Many make it through but some don’t. Tranquility was one that had some trouble.

The training nuns of Our Sisters of the Immaculate Plumage, the nuns who run the school, despaired of Tranquility ever being able to graduate. They were quite firm with her and found her resistant to many of the aspects of swan training despite the measures used to get her “to get her mind right”. Finally they resorted to extreme training procedures, ones similar to those used in a large celebrity religion where there was shunning coupled with intense group crisis intervention methods, until nearly at her breaking point Tranquility agreed to be a “Good” swan. Nervous but convinced they had reached her, the nuns of the Fallen Plumage allowed her to graduate.

One of the events the recently graduated swans look forward to is Spring Break. They’re allowed to spend the two weeks prior to reporting for swan duty to attend the mass gathering of all the young swans at Padre Island and there enjoy the fellowship of their peers, laughing and singing and frolicking in the Texas sun. Being young swans they are expected to comport themselves in a manner that reflects well on swandom in general, which of course most of them do. But then there’s Tranquility.

It was a bad idea to send Tranquility on Spring Break. She fell in with some bad swans. Some really bad swans. Swans that had gone to Spring Break several years ago and never left. Once Tranquility met these kindred souls there was no looking back. Grace did her best to try and convince her to return and take up her life as a Yellowstone swan but her entreaties fell on deaf ears, Tranquility had found her place. Grace left soon after, winging her way back north until she reached the Yellowstone river, assuming her place as a  resident swan in a quiet stretch of river as it flows through the Hayden valley.

Tranquility on the other hand is still down at Padre. She works part-time in an Ink shop called the Quill and Skin pushing tats on unsuspecting young swans who will probably never make it back to their places either. She is very different appearing now and her ex-classmates and the nuns who taught her would never recognize her. She has dyed her wings feathers an emerald-green on one side and fire engine red on the other. Her peers have named her Traffic Stopper. Her long neck is shaven down one side to better display the Kanji tattooed there, the symbols supposedly saying her name, Tranquility, but due to a session with a drunken tattoo artist they say Hotel Bicycle instead. This was pointed out to her, but high on several prescription pain killers she simply shook her beak rings in irritation and went on her way. To her they will always say Tranquility.

Grace on the other hand can still be found at that very wide bend in the river, the one near Mt Mary trail, arriving every spring to take up her place and display the beauty and of course the grace of swans. She thinks of Tranquility often, wondering what her life is like now, but hasn’t had any contact with her since that fateful trip graduation year. Tranquility has been invited to the 3 and 5 year reunions held at the swan school but so far has not responded to any of them. The nuns presume her lost.




Recently The Institute was successful in purchasing Padre Island on the Texas Gulf coast in its entirety for a top-secret project planned for next year. After a long but fruitful negotiation with the Texas state legislature we have assumed ownership of the island and plan to begin demolition of all structures on the island by spring. This as you might imagine has brought a certain amount of unwelcome attention down on us with some of the more raucous objections coming from the various fraternities and sororities that are currently abusing the island.

Although we aren’t going into the full scope of our plans we do intend to remove all access by the public from either the land based side or from the Gulf itself. Beginning tomorrow there will be no further access by vehicles of any type and by the end of next week any vehicles left on the island will be crushed and shredded. We know this will be unpopular but that’s what happens when you have big bucks and can do what you want.

The landward side has been fairly easy to close what with a few Claymores and erecting signs that say “Island closed. Go Away!” The Gulf side has been a little more troublesome what with enterprising college students going way west, jumping into the water, holding their breath, making their way back up to the island and staggering ashore. ManyMost, All of these students have been inebriated and become quite belligerent upon apprehension which is why we keep them in the internment facility we have hastily erected up on the east side of the island. As they sober up and act nice and realize no one hears them, they soon give up and deal with their hangovers, hoping that there will be someone to help them with their extradition papers I mean bail.

Since the island is sizeable we had had to resort to a program similar to the one the US Navy implemented with their Dolphin and whale training, where they trained normally docile friendly dolphins to become trained killers and blow up evil submarines and shrimp boats by carrying high explosives down and attaching them to hulls of those probably commie infiltrators. The Shrimpers weren’t commie infiltrators, in fact you’ve never met a more patriotic bunch, with every single one of them, except for this one guy Cletus that we’re not sure about, ready to give their all to the good old USA. But there was a small problem of teaching the dolphin the difference between an evil submarine and a friendly shrimp boat. Not wanting to make those same mistakes and incur further public wrath we have chosen a different subject for our purposes and it is the familiar fresh and salt water, yellow-headed, totally feathered Pelican. The very one of the fabled, “its beak can hold more than its belly can”, fame.

Since we have to watch the budget on this project, an added benefit has been that these pelicans will work for little to no pay, just all the fish they can eat, plus for every infiltrator they catch they get a free night’s stay at one of the high-rise hotels. Until they’re torn down that is. Above you see TIP-3050, one of our more successful efforts patrolling the shore. TIP standing for, ‘The Institute’s Pelican’. He is flying low watching for the telltale bubbles coming to the surface that these students make as they finally reach the island. When an infiltrator is sighted he, (TIP-3050), immediately sends one of his wingmen, the swift flying gulls surrounding him in perfect formation, to report the sighting at CADS* command and a squad is dispatched to make the pick-up.

We would like to take a moment to dispel one of the more troubling rumors regarding our upcoming project. That is the absurd notion that we are planning to form a new country, New Institutania, and secede from the United States. This is beyond absurdity, and couldn’t be more wrong. So don’t believe it if you hear it more and more, especially if Fox news picks it up and blabs it all over the place. There will be no New Institutania on the island formerly known as Padre. We intend to be a peaceful people.

More on this new project as activities proceed. Stay tuned.

*Catch A Drunk Student