Jim Baker’s Blue-jay Yarn
by Mark Twain
(about 1100 words)
As a story written by Mark Twain, Jim Baker’s Blue-jay Yarn is full of all the charm that one expects from one of the world’s most renowned authors. Originally relayed by a friend of his while prospecting together, Twain later retold the story in his own style and it has since become one of his more famous shorter works.
As the title suggests, Jim Baker’s Blue-jay Yarn is about a blue-jay–several hundred blue-jays later on, but initially only one. It reads like a fable, in which the story-teller can understand the language of all birds and beasts and in this instance, the private monologue of one blue-jay as it struggles to fill a hole in the roof of an abandoned house. The bird’s frustration grows as, no matter now many acorns he tosses down the hole, he can’t seem to fill it. Eventually he calls over all the blue-jays from all over the United States to help him solve this mystery and while they joke and cuss and puzzle it out, ‘two tons’ of acorns lay strewn over the abandoned floor.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) was born on November 30, 1835 in Florida, Missouri. His pre-writing life follows the same pattern as many other writers we’ve already talked about: he lost many siblings and his father at a young age, and he worked in the print industry before moving up to write articles for newspapers. He spent some time in California unsuccessfully attempting mining, and also worked for a time on a steamboat, where he foresaw the death of his brother in a dream which sparked his interest in parapsychology. While he made a lot of money off of his later writings and fame, he lost it in unsound investments and later had to file for bankruptcy. To pay off his creditors, Twain embarked on a world tour, making appearances and speeches in Europe, the Americas and Asia before returning back to the US. He died on April 21, 1910. He had this to say before his death:
I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together’.
He died of a heart attack the day after the comet’s closest pass to Earth.