Editor’s Desk



War on blue jays

Happy Thanksgiving! I wish you a year filled with hope, blessings and prosperity. As we’re sitting down to dine on roasted turkey with all the fixings, I can’t help but think of a story that involves another type of bird: The nefarious blue jay.

In my family, my grandpa’s hatred of blue jays was legendary. It will forever live on in stories passed down through the ages. While the birds are beautiful, all bedecked in their blue and white feathered finery, my grandpa couldn’t stand them. He made it his mission to eradicate them from his property. Them and moles, but that’s another story.

My grandparents always had multiple bird feeders outside the big living room picture window, and in the backyard near the clothesline. It infuriated my grandpa to see blue jays bullying and chasing away the other songbirds so they could get their fill of the tantalizing seeds and nuts. They can be very aggressive to other birds, which he did not appreciate. They are intelligent creatures and loyal to their kind, but have been known to raid nests of other birds. They are also talkative, loud and somewhat obnoxious, a trait my grandpa didn’t like in people, let alone birds.

Whether you agree with it or not, the fact is my grandpa shot blue jays. He had a .22 propped by the back door just for that purpose. It was not uncommon for a gunshot to suddenly crack through the air as my grandpa scouted for blue enemies out the back door or a window. For a time, the .22 could even be found behind the toilet in the bathroom. When I used the facilities one day, I turned around and there it was, tucked against the wall. While surprised, I also found it hilarious. My grandma always said that would be a terrible way to go, if the gun went off while she was on the toilet. The safety was always on, to avoid such a mishap.

Since gunshots echoing through the house were relatively common, so was my grandmother being startled. One time she was doing dishes and all of sudden “BANG!” The gun went off from the bathroom. My grandpa luckily didn’t meet his maker on the toilet. He had seen an enemy blue jay on the backyard feeder, slid the bathroom window open quietly and eased the .22 barrel out the opening. CRACK! The blue jay’s feathers fluttered on the breeze and its raucous squawking was replaced by my grandmother’s shriek. I literally laughed until I bawled when I heard that story.

My grandpa died in August 2013 and I miss him every day. My mother had given him a desk calendar featuring songbirds, one for each day of the year. The day we buried him was Sept. 7. And wouldn’t you know it – the featured bird that day was a blue jay. Coincidence? I think not. I know cardinals are allegedly the messengers from Heaven. But whenever I see a blue jay, I can’t help but think of Grandpa and the .22, the window sliding open and the crack of the bullet leaving the chamber. I let the blue jays be in my yard and I certainly don’t allow anyone to keep a gun behind the toilet. I hope Grandpa understands that those “dang blue jays” remind me of him.

November 23, 2021