Mark Twain's Famous Bluejay Yarn
The following is an excerpt from Mark Twain's ``Jim Baker's Bluejay Yarn,'' first published in 1880.
`WHEN I first begun to understand jay language correctly, there was a little incident happened there. Seven years ago, the last man in this region but me moved away. There stands his house - been empty ever since; a log house, with a plank roof - just one big room, and no more; no ceiling - nothing between the rafters and the floor. Well, one Sunday morning I was sitting out here in front of my cabin,... when a bluejay lit on that house, with an acorn in his mouth, and says, ``Hello, I reckon I've struck something.'' When he spoke, the acorn dropped out of his mouth and rolled down the roof, of course, but he didn't care; his mind was all on the thing he had struck. It was a knot-hole in the roof. He cocked his head to one side, shut one eye and put the other one to the hole, like a possum looking down a jug; then he glanced up with his bright eyes, gave a wink or two with his wings - which signifies gratification, you understand - and says, ``It looks like a hole, it's located like a hole - blamed if I don't believe it is a hole.''
... So he flew down and got that acorn, fetched it up and dropped it in, and was just tilting his head back, with the heavenliest smile on his face, when all of a sudden he was paralyzed into a listening attitude and that smile faded gradually off his countenance like breath off'n a razor, and the queerest look of surprise took its place. Then he says, ``Why, I didn't hear it fall!'' He cocked his eye at the hole again, and took a long look; raised up and shook his head; stepped around to the other side of the hole and took another look from that side; shook his head again. He studied a while, then he just went into the details - walked round and round the hole and spied into it from every point of the compass. No use. Now he took a thinking attitude on the comb of the roof and scratched the back of his head with his right foot a minute, and finally says, ``Well, it's too many for me, that's certain; must be a mighty long hole; however, I ain't got no time to fool around here, I got to tend to business; I reckon it's all right - chance it anyway.''
So he flew off and fetched another acorn and dropped it in, and tried to flirt his eye to the hole quick enough to see what become of it, but he was too late. He held his eye there as much as a minute; then he raised up and sighed, and says, ``Confound it, I don't seem to understand this thing, no way; however, I'll tackle her again.'' He fetched another acorn, and done his level best to see what become of it, but he couldn't. He says, ``Well I never struck no such a hole as this before; I'm of the opinion it's a totally new kind of a hole.'' Then he begun to get mad. He held in for a spell, walking up and down on the comb of the roof and shaking his head and muttering to himself; but his feelings got the upper hand of him, presently, and he broke loose.... I never see a bird take on so about a little thing. When he got through he walks to the hole and looks in again for half a minute; then he says, ``Well you're a long hole, and a deep hole, and a mighty singular hole altogether - but I've started in to fill you, and I'm d--d if I don't fill you, if it takes a hundred years.''
AND with that, away he went. You never see a bird work so since you was born. ...[T]he way he hove acorns into that hole for about two hours and a half was one of the most exciting and astonishing spectacles I ever struck. He never stopped to take a look anymore - he just hove 'em in and went for more. Well, at last he could hardly flop his wings, he was so tuckered out. He comes a-drooping down, once more, sweating like an ice-pitcher, drops his acorn in and says, ``Now I guess I've got the bulge on you by this time!'' So he bent down for a look. If you'll believe me, when his head come up again he was just pale with rage. He says, ``I've shoveled acorns enough in there to keep the family thirty years, and if I can see a sign of one of 'em I wish I may land in a museum with a belly full of sawdust in two minutes!''
... Another jay was going by, and heard him doing his devotions, and stops to inquire what was up. The sufferer told him the whole circumstance, and says, ``Now yonder's the hole, and if you don't believe me, go and look for yourself.'' So this fellow went and looked, and comes back and says, ``How many did you say you put in there?'' ``Not any less than two tons,'' says the sufferer. The other jay went and looked again. He couldn't seem to make it out, so he raised a yell, and three more jays come. They all examined the hole, they all made the sufferer tell it over again, then they all discussed it, and got off as many leather-headed opinions about it as an average crowd of humans could have done.
They called in more jays; then more and more, till pretty soon this whole region 'peared to have a blue flush about it. There must have been five thousand of them; and such another jawing and disputing and ripping and cussing, you never heard. Every jay in the whole lot put his eye to the whole and delivered a more chuckle-headed opinion about the mystery than the jay that went before him. They examined the house all over, too. The door was standing half open, and at last one old jay happened to go and light on it and look in. Of course, that knocked the mystery galley-west in a second. There lay the acorns, scattered all over the floor. ``Come here!'' he says. ``Come here, everybody; hang'd if this fool hasn't been trying to fill up a house with acorns!'' They all came a-swooping down like a blue cloud, and as each fellow lit on the door and took a glance, the whole absurdity of the contract that that first jay had tackled hit him home and he fell over backward suffocating with laughter, and the next jay took his place and done the same.
Well, sir, they roosted around here on the housetop and the trees for an hour, and guffawed over that thing like human beings. It ain't any use to tell me a bluejay hasn't got a sense of humor, because I know better. And memory too. They brought jays here from all over the United States to look down that hole, every summer for three years. And other birds, too. And they could all see the point, except an owl that come from Nova Scotia to visit the Yo Semite, and he took this thing in on his way back. He said he couldn't see anything funny in it. But then he was a good deal disappointed about Yo Semite, too.