WHY BLUE JAY HAS SUCH A SCRATCHY VOICE
(or, Why Human Beings Should Learn To Guard Their Words)

Once long ago, as you well know, Blue Jay had no voice. In those days, she was a lazy mean thieving bird. She stole eggs and nests from other birds, she stole food from other birds, she stole anything she could find to steal. Mercy! She even stole her color from the sky! In the First Times..., she had neglected her First Instructions and hadn't gotten her real song. A day came when she began to wish she could sing. So of course, she looked around for some songs to steal. She would have done it, too, except all birds guard their songs very carefully, only letting them out at just the right times. Other wise, they keep them locked up safe in their feathered breasts. Although Blue Jay tried and tried, she couldn't ever catch a song from another bird.

One day, Blue Jay came upon an old Indian who couldn't have been Muskogee! Now this Indian, unlike most, was quite a talker; he never shut up! He chattered away about anything and everything all day and all night whether anyone listened or not. He did not guard his words carefully. He didn't give out his words only when it was best. No, he just threw them out without forethought, just left them lying around everywhere they happened to hit. On this particular day, the day that he met Blue Jay, he was drunk. He was worse than usual--incoherent words flying around everywhere!

That Indian was a'chattering and a'chittering, a'swearing and gossiping--just a'muttering on and on about nothing at all. Words flew out every whichaways. And, that Indian didn't even watch to see where they landed! And do you know what that Bird did? She stole those words. Just picked them out of the air and off the ground from all around that jabbering Indian. After awhile, that man had no words left! (This wasn't a particularly bad thing according to some) Blue Jay took them all and flew away with them.

Now Blue Jay, having never had a voice before, couldn't get a real clear sound out of her throat. She didn't know how! To make matters worse, she found out that she'd stolen the wrong kind of sounds. Human beings' words weren't too much like bird songs. But Blue Jay tried and tried, At last, she came out with a scratchy kind of noise which didn't really sound like much of anything. She kept at it and got a throatful of rasps and screeches and decided that they were better than nothing. And to this day, she still makes the same kind of scratchy noises.

Blue Jay would still like to have sounds that would be a little better than what she's got, whether they were people's words or real birdsongs. She still flies around hoping to find some other chattering human being who doesn't guard words well. And, when she finds a word or two lying untended, she takes them. Some folks are losing their words one by one. At first they're not quite sure what's happening, but if they don't watch out, one day they'll find themselves wordless. Other folks, if that Jay finds them, are going to lose all their words all at once. And won't they be sorry! So--you better hold your tongue and speak only when speech is needed, or Blue Jay will steal your language. Do you happen to remember how it came to be that Blue Jay had no original song? That's another story, too.

  (Louise Allen Nix & Gus Allen would tell this story to noisy children to teach them to be quiet.
                        Its one reason why Creeks use ceremonial speakers--to help them guard their words)
Translated by C. Randall Daniels-Sakim & Charles Simpson.

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