The Whiskey Jacks
by Linda C Butler
Told by Charlie Vance
Trapping was a lonely occupation and I often looked to the whiskey jacks (gray jays) for company. Their chattering eased some of the boredom as I walked for miles in the winter along the trail. I fed them crumbs and table scraps.
I would make a sandwich in the morning and put it in my packsack for lunch where it froze. At lunch time I would find a spot to light a fire to warm myself and to make tea. I would remove the sandwich from my pack and set it on a rock by the fire to thaw. I had to watch it carefully because whiskey jacks are notorious thieves, and if I wasn’t careful, one of them would swoop down and pick it up. The sandwich would be too heavy for the bird to carry and it would drop it. If I was unlucky, it would fall into the fire and I would have nothing to eat.
In the summer the whiskey jacks often stayed on the portages and ate the scraps from travellers. There were times that the birds were so tame that they would steal a piece of bread off the side of my plate while I was eating.
Whiskey jacks are attracted to shiny or bright objects. In the summer, people usually washed outside with red lifebuoy soap and if the bar of soap was missing, it was usually because a whiskey jack had carried it away.